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Open Access theses

Kirsty31 March 2021

Among the many things that can be made Open Access; publications, data, software, and so many more, it is now increasingly more common for PhD theses to be made Open Access. This can be a great resource when you are undertaking your own PhD to get an idea of scope, structure and can be a great source of ideas.

Finding Open Access theses

UCL Library Services manages the DART-Europe service, the premier European portal for the discovery of open access research theses.  At the time of writing, this service provides access to over one million research theses from 564 Universities in 29 European countries.  It was founded in 2005 as a partnership of national and university libraries and consortia to improve global access to European research theses.  It does this by harvesting data from thesis repositories at contributing institutions, including from UCL Discovery (see below), and providing a link to at least one open access electronic copy of each thesis.  The theses themselves are located on the websites of the contributing institutions.

Users of the DART-Europe portal can search this vast database by keyword, or browse by country or institution, and view the research theses in full, without charge.  New theses are added every day, from doctoral and research masters programmes in every academic discipline.  For more information about the service, please contact the DART-Europe team.  Institutions not currently represented in the portal can view information on how to contribute to DART-Europe.

In normal times, the digitisation of doctoral theses can also be requested on an individual basis through the British Library’s e-theses online service (EThOS).  This is a database of all UK doctoral theses held in university library collections, with links to open access copies in institutional repositories, and hosted directly in EThOS, where available.  If an electronic copy is not available, you can create an account with the service to request digitisation of the print copy: this prompts the institution where the thesis is held to find and check the print thesis, and then send it to the British Library’s facility at Boston Spa for digitisation.  Please note that this process incurs a charge (which is indicated during the requesting process) and is currently suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Your thesis – UCL Discovery

Since the 2008-09 academic year, UCL students studying for doctoral and research master’s degrees have been required to submit an electronic copy of their thesis to the Library as a mandatory condition of the award of their degree.  Students are encouraged to make their theses openly available in UCL Discovery, our open access institutional repository, although in practice access can be restricted for a number of reasons if necessary.  A citation of the thesis appears in UCL Discovery even if access to the full text is restricted.

Older theses have also been digitised and added to UCL Discovery retrospectively.  The bulk of this work has been carried out as part of a specific project covering over 10,000 theses from 1990 to 2008.  This project is ongoing but mostly complete: over 7,000 digitised theses have been added to UCL Discovery during the last twelve months alone by Library Services staff who have not been able to carry out their normal work due to COVID-19 restrictions.

If you cannot access a UCL thesis which is listed online through these methods, please contact the Open Access Team, who will be able to provide advice on options for obtaining access.

New Year open access reflections

Catherine Sharp11 January 2021

Fireworks over Eiffel Tower.Whether you were tucked up in bed early on New Year’s Eve 2020, or come midnight enjoyed what limited indulgences are available nowadays, there’s no doubt that many of us are keen to put 2020 firmly behind us. Here in UCL’s Office for Open Science and Scholarship (OOSS) 2021 appears bright, with lots of exciting developments in open research and open access coming up; but we wanted to spend our first post of the new year unfashionably looking back, and highlighting some of the great things that happened in open access in 2020.

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of some of UCL’s 2020 open access highlights.

Finally – not a number, but an achievement for the Open Access Team nonetheless – we overhauled our open access funding webpages, Wellcome and other funders webpages, and in fact most of our online guidance. Since open access continues to be rather complex, to say the least, we also added a glossary to the webpages. We’ll be making more improvements soon, but hope that you’ve found these ones useful so far.

I’d like to say a thank you to my magnificent colleagues, who’ve processed such huge numbers of papers and kept on top of the ever-growing numbers of enquiries about open access: hard to count, but probably up to a hundred questions every day, many of them very complicated. Thanks also to everyone in the UCL community who works with us to make open access happen. Look out for new transformative agreements coming soon, and very best wishes for a good 2021.

Open Access at UCL in numbers

Patrycja8 October 2020

This is the first in a new series of regular posts in which we plan to celebrate the huge numbers of research outputs that UCL academics are making open access, and the impact of this worldwide.

UCL Discovery in numbers

Despite this year’s unprecedented demands on academics, UCL authors have been depositing their papers at the same impressive rate as before COVID. Our team has continued to process 1,600 papers each month, on average, making them openly available in UCL Discovery, our institutional repository. As of October, the repository holds over 105,000 outputs that are currently openly available to download – this is a significant increase from over 83,000 that were available at the same time last year, and a testament to the success of the REF open access policy.

Research outputs in UCL Discovery have just reached over 22 million lifetime downloads, of which over 3 million are downloads of open access books published by UCL Press. Our global readership spans over 250 countries; the top five countries downloading from the repository are the US, UK, India, Canada and Germany.

This year alone, the repository had over 3,300,000 downloads. The most popular item so far in 2020, with over 11,000 downloads, is a journal article originally published in Nature, Mastering the game of Go without human knowledge. Other popular items include a recent publication from UCL Press, The Responsibility of Intellectuals: Reflections by Noam Chomsky and others after 50 years, with over 8,000 downloads (interestingly, this book is particularly popular in Canada). How the World Changed Social Media is also going strong this year, and kept its position in the top 10 most downloaded items (more than 88,000 lifetime downloads). Unsurprisingly, an article on COVID-19, The continuing 2019-nCoV epidemic threat of novel coronaviruses to global health, is also one of the top downloaded items, with over 8,000 downloads so far.

RPS in numbers

We’ve written before about the new functionality that we introduced to UCL’s Research Publications Service this summer. It allows you to send publications recorded in RPS to your ORCID record automatically. 75% of research staff have added their ORCID record to RPS to enable autoclaiming. We’re very excited that 20% of those have also now given RPS permission to send publications to their ORCID record, so they don’t have to add them manually. It’s great that so many academics are linking and sharing information about research outputs in this way, and we hope that it soon becomes a time-saver for many more. You can find out more about the tool, and how easy it is to set it up, on our ORCID guide.

Doctoral theses in UCL Discovery

Of all the items that are available in UCL Discovery, over 18,000 are doctoral thesis. At UCL, the requirement to submit an electronic copy of your thesis as a condition of award has been in place since 2009. In addition to that, we have retrospectively digitised theses from earlier years, as a part of a collaborative project with ProQuest. Currently, over 8,000 retrospectively digitised thesis are available in the repository. The oldest digitised thesis dates as far back as 1933.

UCL theses are one of the most downloaded types of item in the repository, with over 7 million lifetime downloads. The most popular doctoral thesis, with over 3,600 downloads over the last twelve months, is a 1992 thesis, Fatigue and fracture mechanics analysis of threaded connections, available here.

Gold open access in numbers

So far, we’ve focused on the Green route to open access, where outputs are made available, usually as final accepted manuscripts, after the publisher’s embargo period. Plan S funders, of course, will soon require immediate open access, and Plan S’s Rights Retention Strategy will allow authors to make papers published in subscription journals open access without an embargo (option 2 in Plan S).

Many UCL academics publish via the Gold route to open access, either in fully open access journals (option 1 in Plan S), or under transformative agreements (option 3 in Plan S). This year to date UCL’s Open Access Team has arranged immediate open access for over 1,800 UCL papers.

There are more than 5,000 journals covered in UCL’s transformative agreements, including small and society publishers like Electrochemical Society, European Respiratory Journal, IWA Publishing, Microbiology Society, Portland Press Biochemical Society journals, Rockefeller University Press, Royal Society of Chemistry. This allows authors publishing in these journals to comply with their funders’ requirements and Plan S. Negotiations with other publishers are happening for 2021.

Until the end of this year, papers funded by the Wellcome Trust that are submitted to  subscription journals can still use UCL’s Wellcome funds. Papers submitted from 1 January 2021 will need to follow the requirements of the new Wellcome open access policy [link], which means that funds will only be available for open access in fully open access journals and subscription journals that are part of UCL’s transformative agreements. Other papers will need to follow the Wellcome’s second route to open access, depositing their manuscript in Europe PubMed Central, to be made open access immediately, under the Rights Retention Strategy. We expect the current arrangements for papers funded by one of the UK Research Councils to continue until a new UKRI open access policy is introduced next year.

During OA Week we have a Q&A session on open access. This event, for UCL researchers, is an opportunity to ask questions about the new open access funding arrangements, transformative agreements, Plan S, depositing your research in UCL Discovery, and more. Sign up via Eventbrite to receive a link to join the session.

UCL researchers respond to COVID-19 pandemic

Patrycja21 April 2020

UCL researchers are accustomed to working across disciplines, with colleagues from many different institutions, to help address the biggest challenges facing the world today. It’s no different with the COVID-19 crisis – though now their work is in the public eye as perhaps never before.

UCL clinical academics have joined frontline medical staff in fighting the outbreak and UCL is providing resources for NHS medical staff. Our researchers are developing rapid tests and tracking systems for COVID-19 and are taking a prominent role in advancing public knowledge about the virus.

Many UCL academics are already releasing papers analysing the outbreak, case studies, predictions about the course of the pandemic and assessments of its economic, health and social implications. In a global crisis, public access to high-quality scientific information is critical. Some publishers have introduced special arrangements to make COVID-19 publications openly available during the pandemic. UCL authors also make their papers openly available UCL Discovery, UCL’s open access repository, where they are curated and kept open access in perpetuity.

In the first of what we hope will be a series of regular posts, we are featuring the latest outputs by UCL academics available in the repository.

A commentary by Diana Margot Rosenthal, Marcella Ucci, Michelle Heys, Andrew Hayward, Monica Lakhanpaul that analyses impact of COVID-19 on families experiencing homelessness: discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1009

Ali Zumla, from UCL Department of Infection, co-authored a paper that analyses imaging findings of the first two patients identified in Italy with COVID-19 infection: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10094977

Andrew Hayward from the Research Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, Sarah Beale from Institute of Health Informatics and Anne M. Johnson from the Institute of Global Health analyse the implications of social distancing to control the pandemic: discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1009 This article is also available on Wellcome Open Research –  a megajournal platform with open peer-review. 

Another article by Andrew Hayward, Sarah Beale and Anne M. Johnson on seasonality seasonality and immunity to laboratory-confirmed seasonal coronavirus is also available for open peer-review on Wellcome Open Research platform. The dataset supporting this article is available in UCL Discovery: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10093909/

Jayant Vaidya, Professor of Surgery & Oncology, has co-authored an article describing methods of reducing infection and rationalising workloads. It’s available in UCL Discovery here: discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1009

For more on COVID-19 research at UCL, please see our webpages here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/covid-19-research/