Why is the change to electronic deposits being made?
Many universities have already made the transition to electronic submission of dissertations. This system will allow us to streamline an antiquated process, which previously required large amounts of paper to be shipped to the bindery and to ProQuest (for inclusion in their database of dissertations and theses; click here for access via your Columbia UNI). The old system was inefficient, ecologically unsustainable, expensive, and time consuming. Dissertations will now be submitted in PDF format, and we will be able to accept critical accompanying materials (such as audio and video files, data sets, and other types of files) and make them available along with your dissertation. In addition, the online submission process will allow students who have left New York to more easily deposit their dissertations from anywhere in the world.
Will paper copies of dissertations be available through the Columbia University Libraries?
No. Dissertations will be made available online, through the university's research repository, Academic Commons, which will be considered the repository of record for Columbia University’s PhD, DMA, DES, and JSD dissertations. All deposited dissertations will have a catalog entry in CLIO (Columbia’s library database). JSD dissertations will also be cataloged in Pegasus (the Law Library’s database). PhD dissertations from Teachers College programs will be housed in the Academic Commons as well as in the Teachers College library's academic repository, Pocket Knowledge.
Is a digital copy safe? Can a technological problem cause the dissertations to disappear?
The University Libraries have created a secure replicated storage environment (multiple copies of the data, including offsite storage) for permanent archiving of university research. The libraries have made a commitment to maintaining the Academic Commons into the future, accounting for safe data storage and eventual changes to technology, ensuring that PDF documents will always be accessible. The Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS), the division of the libraries that manages Academic Commons, has put together an FAQ that addresses these issues.
Isn’t there value to having a paper copy available on campus?
Under the old system, due to space constraints, paper copies of the vast majority of dissertations were immediately shipped off site, and even today are not housed in libraries on campus. The volumes were rarely accessed from the off-site storage area, and it had become the norm for scholars to obtain digital copies of a dissertation (often through ProQuest) rather than to request a physical volume from the libraries.
Will the dissertations continue to be made available through ProQuest/UMI’s database of dissertations and theses?
Yes. Your electronic deposit will go directly to ProQuest along with its appearing in Academic Commons.
What are the implications of the open-access nature of the Academic Commons?
Works appearing in the Academic Commons are available to anyone with an internet connection. Making dissertations available openly will benefit you by broadening your audience, increasing citations, and allowing potential employers and publishers to more easily find your work. By making your work widely available online, you can better protect your intellectual property, by firmly and publicly establishing your ideas. All works deposited into the Academic Commons have a permanent URL that will never change and can be used as a citation in your CV or in bibliographies. Please refer to the Academic Commons FAQ for more information.
The nature of the Academic Commons is that Columbia dissertations will be made available online with no impediments whatsoever, an improvement over ProQuest, which is a subscription-based service. That said, dissertations have long been available electronically. Under the old system, the “traditional publishing” agreement with ProQuest made dissertations broadly available through an institutional subscription to ProQuest. Since most, if not all, institutional libraries provide this sort of subscription to their users, the dissertations have already in effect been available to the vast majority of the academic community. Academic Commons simply provides access to those who are no longer associated with an institution that subscribes to ProQuest.
Will I still be able to request an embargo on my work?
Yes. You can elect to embargo your dissertation for a period of one or two years from the date of your deposit. This means that the title and abstract are available publicly, with the text of the dissertation remaining unavailable until the end of the embargo. A small minority of dissertations are embargoed, usually in cases where a patent is pending, an experiment has not yet been fully completed, a manuscript has been submitted for publication in a scholarly journal, or an author has already begun negotiations with a publisher regarding a book. After the embargo expires, the dissertation will be made widely available, as is required for the doctoral degree. The embargo is offered as an option when you upload your dissertation for deposit.
Under compelling circumstances, GSAS will allow an embargo to be extended beyond two years. Alumni who wish to extend their embargo should send an email to dissertations [at] columbia.edu one month before the scheduled end of the embargo, briefly outlining the circumstances and explaining the reasons for the extension. The request will be reviewed in the Office of the Dean, and if approved, the embargo will be extended for either one or two more years.
What do I need to do in order to deposit my dissertation?
After passing the defense, you will access the Deposit Gateway on the GSAS web site. From there you will be able to complete the required Survey of Earned Doctorates, pay your deposit fee, and access the upload system for the dissertation itself.
We will still require an Approval Card for your file, signed by your sponsor and your department chair or program director, which lets us know that you have made all required revisions to your dissertation. As is already the case for students who have left New York, these cards can be sent to us directly by your department or program office.
How quickly will dissertations be made available after the deposit?
Under the old system, it took three to five months for a dissertation to be made available on ProQuest and in the University Libraries. With the digital system, dissertations are available online within four to six weeks of the dissertation's approval by GSAS.
Have any changes been made to the formatting rules?
There have been a few minor changes to margins and page numbering; please consult the formatting guidelines for more information.
Any other questions?
For additional questions, contact dissertations [at] columbia.edu.