Publishing PhD papers ‘improves a university’s profile’

Theses in open-access repository at Dublin City University have been downloaded almost 1.4 million times

September 30, 2015
Dusty books open access repository Indiana Jones
Source: istock
Theses that might otherwise go unread are now being downloaded

Publishing PhD dissertations on a university’s website can help to improve its global reputation for research excellence, an international conference has heard.

Around 1.36 million downloads of research papers from Dublin City University’s (DCU) open-access research portal so far are doctoral theses, explained Lisa Looney, its dean of graduate studies.

Speaking at a European University Association event at Imperial College London to mark the launch of FRINDOC, a European Commission-backed project to internationalise doctoral education, Professor Looney said that eight of the 10 most downloaded items were doctoral theses.

“Doctoral students are driving our institutional reputation globally because of the easy access to these theses,” said Professor Looney.

Interest in material available on the DCU Online Research Access Service (Doras) also helped shine a light on PhD research that might otherwise go unread, she added.

“My doctoral thesis, which was on engineering, is probably sitting on a dusty bookshelf somewhere,” she told the audience of about 100 graduate school leaders on 25 September.

Many of the most popular dissertations on the Doras site are in subjects where the publication of amended PhD theses is not the norm, meaning that the material is seldom viewed outside the university, Professor Looney added.

“If theses don’t make it as a book or on Amazon, they are now being downloaded,” she said.

Theses by PhD students arriving from industry and not seeking an academic career are among those least likely to be published in book or journal form, but the Doras portal, which contains about 2,300 theses, now gave these dissertations a new visibility, Professor Looney told Times Higher Education.

DCU, which was founded in 1975, awarded university status in 1989 and has 14,000 students, is one of two Irish institutions to feature in this year’s Times Higher Education 100 Under 50 Rankings.

As well as its improved research profile – with research funding rising from about €3 million (£2.2 million) in 2000 to about €35 million last year – DCU’s strong performance in THE’s ranking was driven by its strong international links at postgraduate level, Professor Looney said.

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Print headline: Publishing PhD theses ‘boosts a campus’ profile’

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