When You Graduate: Should You Apply an Embargo?
Factors for Graduate Students to Consider
Congratulations! You've successfully defended your thesis/dissertation/project and you're ready to submit it to ProQuest, as required by the U of A Graduate School. Be aware that the University Libraries makes all U of A theses/dissertations/projects available in the open access digital repository ScholarWorks@UARK where they are directly available to anyone, anywhere with an internet connection unless they are under embargo. For an explanation of the ProQuest publishing settings and how they translate into levels of accessibility in ScholarWorks@UARK, see these guidelines.
Whereas an embargo limits discoverability and accessibility, it also safeguards research which you are not yet ready to release to the public. Should you apply an embargo? If so, how long should it last? One year? Three years? Indefinitely? Consider the following factors.
Patents: Do you, your advisor, or any other member of your research team intend to apply for a patent based on your research?
If you answer "yes," ask your advisor if releasing your thesis/dissertation/project in ProQuest or in ScholarWorks@UARK would count as public disclosure, which would impede the patent application.
Research Funding: Has your research been funded, either directly or indirectly, by a government agency, a funding organization, or a corporation?
If you answer "yes," consult your advisor and check the terms of the grant for restrictions or obligations regarding research outputs (e.g., public access requirements, nondisclosure agreements, proprietary data).
Future Publications: When you sign the ProQuest agreement, make sure that you retain copyright as well as the right to use your thesis/dissertation/project for professional purposes and in future publications. That is, you should grant ProQuest nonexclusive permission to publish your work.
Journal articles: Will journals in your discipline publish an article based on a publicly available graduate thesis/dissertation/project? If so, an embargo may not be necessary. But be prepared to do a great deal of effort to transform your work into a viable article. Also, in a footnote or in the acknowledgments section, you will need to mention that the article originated from your thesis/dissertation/project.
If journals will not accept an article based on a publicly available graduate thesis/dissertation/project, you should consider an embargo.
Books: Will reputable presses in your discipline accept a manuscript based on a publicly available graduate thesis/dissertation/project? If so, an embargo may not be necessary. But you should expect to expand and revise the manuscript quite extensively as you convert it into a book. In the acknowledgments section, you should mention that the book originated from your thesis/dissertation/project.
If your top-choice presses will not accept a manuscript based on a publicly available graduate thesis/dissertation/project, you should consider an embargo.
Your Discipline: If you're in the arts, you may not want to make your drawings, stories, architectural designs, musical compositions, documentary videos, or dramatic scripts openly available until you've had an opportunity to capitalize on them yourself. Also, the humanities, social sciences, and sciences have differing expectations regarding a graduate thesis/dissertation/ project as a source of publications. Consult your advisor and talk with junior faculty at both the U of A and other institutions about the options for publishing your work and the desirability of an embargo.