Who controls your dissertation?

In 2012, Prof. Jesse Stommel discovered that ProQuest was marketing his dissertation through Amazon.com. He didn’t give it much thought, not expecting the dissertation to see extraordinary sales.
But in 2014, a Facebook discussion on the topic inspired him to think more seriously about ProQuest selling dissertations without an author’s knowledge. He explains his reservations in a column in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“A dissertation is most often a work in progress, which means graduate students need to be able to make critical choices about when and how the work is disseminated,” says Stommel, assistant professor of digital humanities at the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies. “For example, they might be revising the work into a book manuscript that a publisher could reject if the dissertation is already public.”
Stommel is also troubled by ProQuest’s requirement that dissertations be uploaded to the plagiarism detection service Turnitin.
“We do not protect scholarly work by turning originality into an algorithm,” he writes. “And we do not protect scholarly work by requiring students to upload and license their intellectual property to a corporation that profits off the database it builds from that work.”
Stommel believes “a dissertation should be about education, not a bureaucratic institutional hoop.” See his argument here at the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Cover photo: Creative Commons licensed image by flickr user sunlight cardigan.