PhD

CC Licensing Your Dissertations

Jane Park, February 17th, 2009

PhD students slave for years on researching, writing, and drafting a final product, usually text, that marks the culmination of their candidacy for the highly esteemed doctoral degree. This product is then reviewed by a tenured member of the faculty in their domain of expertise, or a small committee of said members. Upon passing this review, the student is finally rewarded the title of “Doctor” along with its perceived reputation. The dissertation, unfortunately, usually falls to the wayside and is, for the most part, never read again.

Furthermore, because most dissertations are fully copyrighted, these significant pieces of work cannot be reproduced or redistributed for future students’ research. So why not do the obvious? Why not work with copyright law and publish your dissertation under an open license, thereby increasing its exposure to the world, academic or otherwise?

Two UC Berkeley graduates from the School of Information have gone ahead and taken a stab at doing this by CC licensing their dissertations. In the words of The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley’s independent, student-run newspaper:

This license opens up many possibilities in the academic world such as free online course readers, zero cost educational multimedia, gratis online tutorials-even the price of paper textbooks could be drastically reduced. Perhaps more important than cost, however, by using Creative Commons you are essentially “paying it forward” by sharing your intellectual output with the academic community because future generations of scholars will have greater access to your work.

Two recent Berkeley students to file their dissertations using a Creative Commons license are Joseph Lorenzo Hall and danah boyd. Hall navigated through much bureaucratic red tape, but found that most of his difficulty came from simple formatting issues, not any ideological disagreement by the univerisyt. Another School of Information graduate, danah boyd, also filed her dissertation under Creative Commons shortly thereafter.

On Jan. 28, the Dean of the Graduate Division committed to make Creative Commons licensing available to future students. All students interested in contributing to the effort to make education more affordable and accessible should consider using Creative Commons instead of traditional copyright.

Both danah‘s and Joseph‘s dissertations are licensed CC BY-NC-ND and are respectively entitled “Taken Out of Context — American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics” and “Policy Mechanisms for Increasing
Transparency in Electronic Voting
“.

We hope that other institutions and individuals will also embrace the significant benefits gained by CC licensing academic outputs such as dissertations. For one thing, CC licensing increases your creation’s visibility, even if by only a small margin at first. It lets current and future students access and read (and even derive, based on the specific CC license you choose) your work so that they can build and improve upon it—all the while giving credit where credit is due, namely, to you.

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