Publisher Attitudes on ETDs and Prior Publication

Doctoral students frequently ask if making their dissertation/thesis open access can result in publishers, book and/or journal, refusing to consider their work for potential publication.  It’s an important question but also one that’s impossible to answer for all publishers. In the vast publishing community there are many different attitudes about prior publication and open access ETDs. Generally, the best advice for doctoral students is to become familiar with publisher policies in their disciplinary areas and inquire of potential publishers about their specific policies.

There are two articles that students might consult to ascertain some publisher views on this topic. The first is Gail McMillan et al. An Investigation of ETDs as Prior Publications: Findings From the 2011 NDLTD Publishers’ Survey (Sept. 2011).  This provides the very useful results of a 2011 survey of journal editors’ and university press directors’ attitudes toward online theses and dissertations. The data and the open-ended comments from the survey respondents indicate support for open access to ETDs. The second article is by Jane Morris, Scholarly Communication Librarian, Boston College. It’s entitled “Frequently asked: eTDs and Prior Publication” and it appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of the BC Library Newsletter. Jane goes over some of the issues students should be aware of if they are planning to publish a book and/or articles from their thesis or dissertation. She also provides the very useful observation that there are three often-repeated themes in university advice on this ETD and prior publication issue:


         A book created from a dissertation is usually heavily revised and becomes a quite different work.

         Publishers in different fields have different views on prior publication, and you should become familiar with the policies in your field.

         If you are in doubt, select a reasonable embargo period for your dissertation, keeping it in the dark until you have had a chance to negotiate with potential publishers.