Implementing Embargoes for Electronic Dissertations

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Owen, Terry M., “Implementing Embargoes for Electronic Dissertations,” Open Repositories 2007, San Antonio, TX, January, 23-26, 2007.



The Digital Repository at the University of Maryland (DRUM) was launched in August 2004 and has grown to more than 3,600 records. Managed by the University of Maryland (UM) Libraries, DRUM captures, hosts, preserves and provides access to the research output of UM faculty. Using DSpace, materials deposited in DRUM are indexed and made freely available over the web, promoting open access to the diverse body of research created by UM faculty.

In addition to archiving UM faculty research, DRUM also provides access to all UM dissertations. Students have been required to submit their dissertations electronically to the Graduate School since September 2003. As a result, it was only natural to include these electronic documents in DRUM.

To handle the submission and delivery of electronic dissertations, the Graduate School chose the web-based UMI/BePress application. The system allows students to submit their dissertation in PDF format directly to the Graduate School for approval. After the Graduate School reviews each document, the final document is forwarded to the UM library to be included in DRUM, and also to ProQuest for inclusion in their Digital Dissertations database.

Mandatory electronic submission of dissertations has been well received at UM, but there have been concerns about making students’ research widely available on the web. Concerns range from the possibility of stolen research ideas to publishers not accepting their research for publication. To address these concerns, graduate students now have the option of requesting an embargo period of either one year, six years, or indefinitely. A one-year embargo is appropriate for students seeking patent protection for their work or publishing an article in a journal. A six-year embargo can be requested for those instances when a student plans to publish a book based on their dissertation. If a student has selected an embargo period, the information is added to the document metadata by the Graduate School which is then transmitted to DRUM along with the full text PDF.

Implementing embargoes in DRUM involves modifying DSpace so that restricted documents can be easily identified. To restrict access to a PDF the authorization policies for the item are modified to display only the bibliographic record and abstract. In addition, information is added to the bibliographic description to notify the user that the PDF is not available. If a user attempts to open the PDF, they are directed to a page that not only tells them that the document is currently unavailable, but also gives the date the embargo will be lifted.

We are working with the Graduate School to educate graduate students and their academic advisors on the implications of requesting an embargo and anticipate that our efforts will reduce the number of requests that we receive each semester.


Poster presented at the Open Repositories 2007 conference in San Antonio, 23-26 January.