October 29th, 2014 | Category : Best Practices, Student Work

Best Practices from Your Peers: ETD Removal Policies

One topic we see come up a lot on our Digital Commons user group are ETD policies and workflows. In one thread—reposted here with permission—Margaret Heller of Loyola University Chicago and M Ryan Hess of DePaul University shared two expert perspectives on ETD removal policies that we wanted to highlight on the blog.

Mies Martin, formerly of Michigan Technological University, posed this question to the group:

“We are preparing our formal DC roll out and one policy or procedure we need to establish has to do with removal of content in Digital Commons. Right now our DC site consists mostly of Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Rather than reinventing the wheel I wanted to see if anyone could share their polices or procedures regarding removal of ETDs from their sites. I’m also interested in learning if anyone posts this information and if so, where on your site do you post it?”

Margaret responded first:

“We don’t have anything documented particularly well, but several experiences over the past year have led to the following set of practices:
1. When a withdrawal request is made, we first clarify the motivations. Is there a book contract at stake? Simple misunderstanding of the requirement to deposit?
2. Next we see if an embargo or access restricted to campus is acceptable.
3. In the one case where none of the above has been acceptable, the item was withdrawn, but the PDF is stored elsewhere with the understanding that is still archival material just as the print copy in the archives.
So far this has worked, with most people willing to accept embargo over withdrawal.
Our general withdrawal policy is on a policy page. It was written before I began managing the repository, and has never come up.”

Then M Ryan Hess offered his experience:

“We have a pretty established policy which largely puts the burden on the Colleges and Schools. Our largest ETD contributor made it a departmental policy that adding dissertations and theses to the repository was a requirement for graduation. Students must sign an agreement that they are posting their ETD on our repository. The aim of our ETD program is to promote the intellectual legacy of the campus, reinforce our reputation via Google and Discovery system results and also promote open access in general. Pretty much all the other schools follow this model. In fact, we highly recommend this to new schools and colleges that want to post ETDs. We have about one or two students a year come back with complaints about their writing being posted and so it’s very good to have consent documented. I think it also makes it really easy to enforce because it’s very simple and straightforward.
We also defer to the schools in terms of embargoes. Some use this. Some don’t. In some cases, the schools that do allow them, require that the faculty advisor sign off on any embargo.”

Margaret was kind enough to follow up and let bepress know that

“We discovered a retrospectively digitized thesis from the 1940s containing copyrighted material. The publisher asked us to withdraw it under the DMCA. Rather than withdrawing the entire thesis we consulted with library administration and chose to redact the pages with the copyrighted material and replace that with a page stating the copyright holder requested that the material be removed. This particular situation is relevant to current ETDs when they contain material that wasn’t cleared, and might be a way to make the entire thesis available without copyright violation.”

Thanks to Margaret and M Ryan for their great answers, and to Mies for posing such an important question!

The world of scholarly communications is constantly changing, but if there’s one thing we here at bepress can always count on, it’s the vast collective knowledge of our Digital Commons community. Though our team of IR experts are always here to help, we know that sometimes the most useful answers to your questions are the ones that come straight from your peers. That’s why a few years ago we set up an online Digital Commons user group dedicated to just that. Are you subscribed to the group yet? If not, email your Consulting Services Representative to find out how!