My brother is today defending his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Tampere in Finland. Because I am now in Northern California I am not able to attend the public defense of the dissertation. I got, however, the actual book on my screen and printer. Thanks to open publishing.
The University of Tampere is also my academic “home”. I studied there in the early 1990s. When I finally finished my thesis at the Faculty of Education, they did not have in place any way to publish thesis online. Because my thesis was about international education politics, I thought that someone somewhere could find it interesting and put it online under my homepage. Because my thesis discussed the education policy of the Government of Zambia, I shamelessly sent one or two emails to the University libraries in Zambia, just to inform them that this kind of work is out there and I am happy if they will add it in their collections.
Things at the University of Tampere are today different. The Tampere University Press is publishing all Master thesis and Ph.D. dissertations online as PDF files if the writer gives a permission to do it. I assume most people do.
Playing with the database that covers all the Master thesis since 1991 is fun. You may search with different words and get an idea how popular they have been in last 17 years among the students of the University of Tampere. Some examples: action research: 39 hits, television: 58, Internet: 145, Radio: 36, Mobile phone: 31, artificial intelligence: 7, wiki*: 2, blog*: 5, society 103, equality: 31, “progressive inquiry”: 6, Second Life: 0, Habbo Hotel: 1 etc.
With the open access we often focus mainly to the open access journals. This is of course important, however, I think it is also very important to bring Master and Ph.D. thesis online. The practice also carries pedagogical value in University teaching: it is very different to write your thesis exclusively for your professor, than when knowing that it will be out there for people to read and comment.
There are many open source tool to publish and maintain this kind of online libraries, but it looks that the de facto open source standard tool is the DSpace. When checking the DSpace, I also found a Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) maintained by the University of Southampton, UK. Looks interesting, but actually it is not exactly a repository of open access content. At least I found from there in less than 5 minutes links to repositories, which do not provide access to the full text, but only to the metadata.
I wonder could there be some open APIs to make the open theses even more easily accessible and movable from one place to another? Would it be possible to mash-up the register in any website so that one could seamlessly search these databases from a single search? What about the Google Scholar or Science Commons?
The full title of my brother’s dissertation in English is “Scientific Thinking and Weeds of Philosophy. The Identity of Philosophy as a problem of Finnish Philosophy and the Conceptions of Philosophy in the Output of Eino Kaila and Erik Ahlman”. The actual book is in Finnish, but there is an English Summary. From the Summary:
“The study deals with the development and characteristics of academic philosophy in Finland. It brings forth new results and critical viewpoints in constructing and estimating the history, identity and characteristics of Finnish academic philosophy.”