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Degrees of Secrecy in an Open Environment The Case of Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Abstract : The open access (OA) principle requires that scientific information be made widely and readily available to society. Defined in 2003 as a “comprehensive source of human knowledge and cultural heritage that has been approved by the scientific community”, open access implies that content be openly accessible and this needs the active commitment of each and every individual producer of scientific knowledge. Today, the success of the open access initiative cannot be denied. Yet, in spite of the growing success of the open access initiative, a significant part of scientific and technical information remains unavailable on the web or circulates with restrictions. Even in institutional repositories (IR) created to provide access to the scientific output of an academic institution and central vector of the so-called green road to open access, more or less important sectors of the scientific production are missing. This is because of lack of awareness, embargo, deposit of metadata without full text, confidential content etc. This problem concerns in particular electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) that are disseminated with different statuses – some are freely available, others are under embargo, confidential, restricted to campus access (encrypted or not) or not available at all. While other papers may be available through alternative channels (journals, monographs etc.), ETDs most often are not. Our paper describes a new and unexpected effect of the development of digital libraries and open access, as a paradoxical practice of hiding information from the scientific community and society, partly while sharing it with a restricted population (campus). We try to explain these different shades of grey literature in terms of different degrees of secrecy related to intellectual property, legitimate interests, expected exploitation and trade secrets, and suggest some ways of increasing availability of ETDs in an open environment (inter-lending loan and document supply, alternative format etc.). The study builds on a review of recent papers on ETDs in institutional repositories and provides empirical evidence on this reality. The study also includes an overview of the thesis mandate policies of IR as mentioned in the ROARMAP directory, and an evaluation of the availability of ETDs in a small panel of European and American academic IR, networks and institutions.
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Joachim Schöpfel, Hélène Prost. Degrees of Secrecy in an Open Environment The Case of Electronic Theses and Dissertations. ESSACHESS – Journal for Communication Studies, ESSACHESS editors, 2013, 6 (2(12)), pp.66-85. ⟨sic_01077239⟩



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