‘Supporting and Influencing the deposit of E-Theses in Higher Education

As you saw from my last post, RSP is having a busy time of it with events this week and as promised here is an overview of our most recent event ‘Supporting and Influencing the deposit of E-Theses in Higher Education’ on Monday the 28th March 2011.

Andy Appleyard, Head of Document Supply & Customer Services at The British Library, gave our Key Note address and used EThOS performance data to compare the progress to date with the original aims and objectives of the service. He began by giving us ‘EThOS by numbers’  and some of the key figures I noted were: 45,634 theses available for direct download; 282,120 downloads to date equates to 13.5m pages; 901 orders for hard copies; 45,634 theses available for direct download;282,120 downloads to date (as of 21 March) and 63,355 registered users in 267 countries around the world.

I was also very interested to hear the demand for Microfilm (from the ‘70’s) compared with digital today.  Microfilm theses saw an average annual demand of 10,000, compared to that for today’s digital services which average at 140,000 per year. This difference in scale of the audiences reached by different mediums I felt really showed how Opening up Access to research can affect its impact and reach.

Andy also described planned changes to the current business model for EThOS such as handing back control to subscribers over their subscription fees. Currently user demand drives where fees are spent. Further there are plans to disaggregate the digitisation aspect of EThOS to central British Library digitisation services. Planned changes are set to be implemented in the next academic year (September 2011) and final details of the future model will be released in May 2011.

Next we heard from Kathy Sadler who reported back on the findings of the short JISC funded project ‘Influencing the Deposit of Electronic Theses in UK HE’.

Kathy’s presentation, and the report it was based on, provided a really interesting snapshot of current practices with regard to the deposit of E-Theses and also planned changes to practices. It also enjoyed a really impressive response rate from UK HEIs. For example this graph from her presentation shows that 63% of institutions surveyed accept electronic deposit of theses, with 6% exclusively so.


Whereas this graph from her presentation shows the plans to shift towards e-deposit and the timescales attached. Given that those reporting no plan to shift also reposted the reason for this was they only saw 10 theses deposited a year,  she concluded that within five years less than 0.05% of theses submitted across the UK will be stored solely in print format. This was very heartening to hear.

Kathy also provided a handout which pointed to some very useful guidance documents developed by the UCL team which you can find here.

Ginevra House, formerly of the British Library but now a freelance researcher, ethnomusicologist and an expert on Indonesian Gamelan music, brought our first session of the afternoon to a close by reporting on the findings of a JISC funded survey carried out in 2009 by the British Library into the impact of EThOS.


Ginevra House (Image: Authors own)

She summarised the survey results, highlighting the many perceived benefits, as well as providing some constructive criticisms offered by users to help improve the service. Before breaking for coffee there was time for some questions and answers where delegates were able to discuss their experiences and feedback to the EThOS team.

Following a break for coffee, biscuits and networking, we concluded the day with a panel session including representatives from each of the four case studies investigated by the UCL study. William Nixon of Glasgow University, Dr Nicky Cashman of Aberystwyth University, John Aanonson from Brunel University and Chris Keene from the University of Sussex all presented on their own unique experiences of implementing electronic theses deposit at their Institution and answered questions from the audience.

This event seemed to come at a time where repository managers are beginning to really grapple with the issues around E-Theses, registration for the event filled up very quickly and feedback on the day was really positive with delegates noting its relevance to the issues they are currently facing.

You can download all the presentations from the day and the UCL handout here.

You can also follow the Tweets from the day uder #rspetheses and #rsptheses