Unlocking Thesis Data (UTD) is the short name for a project with a long title and a big ambition. “Unlocking the UK’s thesis data through persistent identifiers” will explore how the application of persistent identifiers, software and metadata enhancements, and guidance to institutions would kick-start a more widespread sharing of data generated in doctoral-level research in the UK. Here’s our project summary:
Unlocking Thesis Data (UTD) is a community-driven project to promote the use of persistent identifiers for theses, their underlying data and their authors. By their very nature, PhD theses break new ground and advance scholarly knowledge. Most make use of newly-created data but these data can be trapped in an appendix or DVD – either unavailable or not suited for reuse. UTD will make data more discoverable and citeable, thereby offering incentives to students to share their data in more appropriate formats, in the context of a sustainable national thesis framework.
Funded by Jisc, UTD is led by the Universities of East London and Southampton and EThOS (the UK’s national thesis service at the British Library). Phase one will explore current thesis practice through an online survey to EThOS member institutions, and individual case studies looking at the issues in more detail – including how institutions might apply DOI and ORCID identifiers. The survey and case study findings will be combined into a report with recommendations for further phases of the project. These are expected to enhance metadata and software for applying DOI and ORCID identifiers, to test them in live settings, and to offer comprehensive advice for institutions to adopt them. By summer 2016 we expect to have a sustainable infrastructure covering the whole UK, driving the wider availability of research data and introducing doctoral students to new norms of scholarly communication.
The first phase of the project runs from late April to mid July 2015, and has three components
- A survey of EThOS member institutions on their current practices with regard to PhD theses and their data
- Case studies in individual institutions digging into the details and seeing where DOI and ORCID identifiers could be assigned
- A summary report synthesising the survey and case studies, with recommendations for next steps
We look forward to building on the national EThOS network with a robust and sustainable thesis infrastructure adapted to the new norms of data sharing. Subject to continuing Jisc funding two further phases will deliver working services that meet the needs of students, their institutions and all those interested in the data generated in PhD research.