Briefing on Access Levels and Embargoes of ETDs

Jump to: navigation, search

This is a placeholder workspace for draft and final documents related to this project deliverable.


About this Document

One of the most contested topics in ETD program planning is the question of ETD embargoes and levels of access restriction, as evidenced by both the NDLTD/MetaArchive surveys and the 2010 CNI survey previously cited. This document will directly address this difficult issue, about which stakeholders are particularly concerned. Thus far, there is no consensus on “good practices” in the field concerning embargoes/restrictions. This briefing will lay out the issues and the different sides of this argument for those considering an ETD program, clearly articulating the pros and cons claimed by proponents for and against embargoes. The point of this document is not to settle the issue, but provide prospective ETD programs with clear and concise information about the ramifications of campus policy decisions for or against different kinds of access restrictions.

This discussion may want to reference the surveys of publishers' attitudes towards ETDs done in 2000/2002 and 2011/2012. These are available at and (GMc 1/25/12)

A final working outline for this Guidance document is available to all project steering committee authors for review and comment at Google Docs.


  • Overview of scope of document

Intended audiences for the document (ETD program implementers, those updating their ETD programs, grad studies offices looking to align with best practices) Developed as a living document

  • Definitions of access restriction and embargo

Access restriction a more general term, may apply to only parts of a thesis or limited viewing. Embargoes are access restrictions. Embargo locks down the thesis for a given period of time, no access.

  • Issues addressed (summary of the main sections of the document)

Reasons for Access Restrictions

  • When/how does access happen and what does it mean?
    • Print vs. digital, born-digital vs. digitized
    • Visibility in online catalog
    • Discoverable via internet search engines
    • Availability in ETD repositories such as NDLTD
  • Publishing concerns
  • Sensitivity of data
  • Research sponsor restrictions
  • Patent concerns
  • Other
  • Does the institution have consistent policies for access restrictions?
    • At what levels are access restrictions applied (e.g. campus, state, department, etc.)?
    • Are access restrictions applied at the university level to all dissertations?
    • “dark,” “dim,” “light” levels of access
  • publisher requirements for restriction when accepted for publication
  • new versions, version control
  • Do institutions do partial access restrictions of ETDs? (this will also tie into #5 and #6, below)
    • If so, how is that decision made?
    • How is partial access managed?
    • How is a partially restricted ETD released?
  • How are constituents informed about valid reasons for restricting access?
  • Is there a review process in place to determine whether or not access restrictions need to be changed?
  • Are the policies for restricted access reconciled with goals of increased access to research and demonstrated scholarly value for the university?
  • Recommendations for defining access restrictions

Arguments against access restrictions

  • Open access policies
  • Academic freedom (?)
  • Benefits to student/university vs. other stakeholders (publishers, funders)

Review and Comparison of Policies across universities

  • Examples from varying universities
  • How are the policies written?
  • Is there commonality among the policies?
  • Are the policies clear or vague (a subjective analysis)?
  • Is there a difference between availability in print vs. electronic?
  • Do the policies clearly define the motivations for allowing access restrictions?
  • Possible statistics from ProQuest on embargoed theses
  • Recommendations for common language in policies

Who makes the restricted access decision?

  • Is there a default embargo applied to all dissertations?
  • Do students unitarily request an embargo?
  • Is the chair required to agree with an embargo request?
  • Do departments have their own embargo policies?
  • Are there sponsor restrictions that stipulate a period of embargo?
  • Can students/advisors request an extension to an embargo?
  • issues of version control and redaction
  • recommendations for identifying who should make the embargo decision

How restrictions are enforced

  • Do the theses remain with graduate studies or the department for the length of the embargo?
    • How are they managed?
    • How are they released when the embargo ends?
  • Is the library responsible for managing the embargo?
    • How is the library informed that there is an embargo?
    • Where does the library keep the embargoed ETDs?
    • Are the embargoed ETDs backed-up and preserved?
    • How is the checking done to release ETDs when the embargo ends?
    • Do the ETD management systems support automatic release?
      • How is a thesis identified in the system as embargoed?
      • How is the release triggered?
      • What level of automation exists for restricted access ETDs?
    • What is IT’s role in access restrictions?
      • Are there issues with networking changes?
      • Is IT required to maintain a dark system for embargoed ETDs?
      • Does IT need to do anything with the IP address once the embargo is released?
    • Are there any exceptions to access once a restriction has been imposed on an ETD?
    • Recommendations for enforcing access restrictions

Informing stakeholders of release

  • Who are the stakeholders that need to be informed when an ETD is released from the embargo?
    • Students?
    • Faculty Advisors?
    • Sponsors?
    • Grad studies?
    • Publishers?
    • Academic department?
    • No one?
  • Is there an advanced warning that the ETD will be released in xxx weeks/months?
  • How are stakeholders informed of the embargo release?
  • Does any stakeholder need to acknowledge that the embargo is ending?
    • Any opportunity for extension?
    • Who would arbitrate any disputes regarding the planned release of an ETD?
  • Once released, how do users get access to the ETD?
  • Recommendations for best practices for informing stakeholders of ETD release

Retrospective access restrictions

  • How are requests for access restrictions handled after an ETD has been made available?
  • Who is authorized to make the decision about whether or not an ETD can be restricted once it’s been made available?
  • Is there a “statute of limitations” for requesting restricted access on an ETD?
  • Are retrospective requests handled with embargoes or permanent access restrictions?
  • Can a retrospective request to restrict access be overridden?
  • Who is generally contacted when there is a request for retrospective restricted access?
  • Recommendations for handling retrospective access restrictions

Access methods

  • Uniform Resource Identifiers (uri’s). DOI, Handle
  • citation methods for ETDs


  • Review of practices that have been identified for ETD access restrictions/embargoes
  • Recommended best practices for addressing access restrictions
  • Challenges with consistent policies regarding scholarly publications across the institution
    • Is there an open access mandate in place?
    • Where to graduate student publications fall with respect to the institution’s policy on copyright?
    • Are ETDs treated differently from other scholarly publications at the institution?
  • Identification of areas in need of more research and next steps
Personal tools