Research higher degree theses have traditionally been seen as part of the scholarly communications chain, and have been made available by university libraries in print and, latterly, online via institutional repositories.
The issue we seek to address is whether or not work already publicly available in a thesis (whether in print or online, although the concern is primarily around online) is seen as “prior publication” by journals and rejected for that reason. The perception drives behaviour so that, where students/supervisors have a choice, they will decline open access or seek a lengthy embargo because they fear publishers will refuse to publish work that has arisen from the thesis.
A 2013 survey of STEM publishers showed that while just over 50% of respondents did not view electronic theses as prior publication, the remainder either treated submissions on a case by case basis or would not consider publication. This survey was necessitated, in part, because publisher websites are often unhelpful in providing usable advice on this issue. Major commercial publishers are often ambiguous/silent on the question in author rights and editorial pages.
- What is the best and most responsible general advice to provide to students and faculty on this question?
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