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.