Friday, 23 August 2013

The British Museum is Falling Down

As many institutions now do, we at the University of Surrey have a repository for our research outputs - papers, mostly.  This means that all the research work that comes out of the Uni should be able to be found in one place.  More importantly, it means that anyone can download and read our work for free, even if the papers are also published in subscription-only journals.  If you want to see it, the web-site is here.  I'm not sure I'd particularly recommend it, though.  I think it is a bit of a mess in terms of design and functionality.  Searching for my surname, for example, brings up as first hit a paper entitled Footprints of air pollution and changing environment on the sustainability of built infrastructure.  That's not by me, though my surname can be found in the references at the end of the document.  Fortunately google has indexed the site, and available papers from our institutional repository appear when searching Google Scholar.

Anyway, I was looking there to see about making sure my most recent student's thesis got submitted so that it would forever be available.  I haven't quite figured out how to do this or whether there is already a default policy of publishing all theses, but I did follow a link to EThOS, the British Library database of all UK theses. It seems rather good, and has details of many theses - including my own.  Unsurprisingly, it doesn't have a digitised copy of mine, but one could be ordered.  In that case the British Library would get in touch with the University of Oxford, and arrange for them to take the paper copy of my thesis from the stacks deep in the bowels of the city, scan it in, and send it back to the British Library.  It would then forever be available via the EThOS service.  That first request would cost the requestor some money.

Seeing that they don't have an electronic copy, and I do - the original at that, and not a scanned-in copy - I thought I'd offer it to them.  Sadly, they had to decline, as they can only accept theses directly from the awarding institution.  I can understand why, but it's too bad.  I wouldn't recommend anyone read my thesis, particularly, but for now, it's only available from my own website.