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UK plans national e-theses service

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The UK is launching a national electronic theses service, following an 18-month trial involving 10 higher-education and library partners. The new service, called EThOS, will be run by the British Library.

The intention is to make UK theses openly available for global use. Because the theses will be free to access, digitisation, which will account for around 90 per cent of the cost or £0.5 million per year, will be funded through a sponsorship model.

Anthony Troman of the British Library told delegates at this week's JISC annual conference that larger participating institutions will pay an up-front annual charge of £8,000, which will pay for all digitisation from the institution throughout the year as well as digitisation of older theses as they are requested. Other membership options such as pay-as-you-go or simply providing details of the theses held in the institution will also be available. Any theses digitised will then be sent back to the institutions so that they can include them in their own institutional repositories as well as or instead of in EThOS.

The launch will be part of a new two-year project, known as EThOSnet. This will also investigate issues raised by the launch of this service such as intellectual property and copyright issues. EThOS believes that tracking down authors of older theses to obtain permission to digitise their work will be virtually impossible. One of the issues that the EThOSnet will investigate will be the potential legal implications of not obtaining this permission.

EThOSnet is being funded by the UK’s JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and CURL (Consortium of Research Libraries), with the support of participating libraries.

‘Evidence shows that use of electronic theses and dissertations is dramatically higher than that of print, and that accesses are worldwide,’ said Robin Green, executive director of CURL. ‘A national e-theses service will greatly improve availability of resources for researchers as well as emphasise the quality and range of research undertaken in the UK.’