Re: Book on future of STM publishers

From: David Goodman <dgoodman_at_PRINCETON.EDU>
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2002 14:42:23 -0400

The normal assumption in the sciences is that all of the worthwhile work
submitted for Ph.D. theses will be published in the ordinary literature.

In my own subject, especially in classical rather than molecular
biology, some theses are valuable nonetheless because they contain
detail not included in the published papers. We are asked for about 20 a
year by our students and staff, and we buy them, bind them, and add them
to the collection. In molecular biology the presence of important
non-published information is much rarer, and the publication is usually
available earlier than the thesis. I cannot speak in detail about other
scientific areas.

I do know that all of this is not in the least true in the humanities,
where many theses are either not published at all in any other form, or
are published several years later in revised form as a book.

Access to Ph.D. theses varies. Most recent US theses are available
through Proquest ($25.50 online download, $32 quality good paper copy).
They can often also be borrowed via interlibrary loan, either from the
university where the degree was awarded or, with luck, from some other
university that has purchased a copy--try OCLC.

Most UK theses are available through the British Library (at higher
prices) as Bill Oldroyd has just pointed out. Many European theses are
printed in very small editions, apparently under some unusual
arrangements. They can be borrowed in the US through the Center for
Research Libraries, which tries to get all those available. .

Theses at levels below the Ph.D. are considered much less likely to
contain high quality work, and their availability is sometimes very

Tim Brody wrote:
> I presume Albert Henderson's's assertion that "student work" is of lesser
> value is based on personal opinion rather than on any scientometric
> study of the relative impact of different types of research.
> I believe the majority of the members of research groups consist of
> research students (PhDs); hence the novel work that research students
> undertake forms the bedrock from which research in general is developed
> (not only through the students carrying their own work on into research
> posts and professorships, but also as it feeds directly into the student's
> research group and the research community in general).
> It would seem, therefore, that research dissertations may be a potentially
> valuable resource after all - one that for too long has been accessible
> only from library archives.
> All the best,
> Tim Brody
> (PhD Research Student)
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Albert Henderson" <chessNIC_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
> Sent: Thursday, July 18, 2002 9:09 PM
> Subject: Re: Book on future of STM publishers
> > The fundamental flaw in Stevan's position is
> > that it discounts the receipt of value --
> > recognition and targeted dissemination -- exchanged
> > by the journal author. If one recognizes that the
> > journal publisher does provide such value, the
> > journal author is on the same footing as the book
> > author. "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except
> > for money," as Samuel Johnson observed. Steven's
> > position is out of bounds. The question is moot.
> >
> > In the case of the dissertation, the acceptance
> > is of a lesser value, since it is student work.
> > Most books derived from dissertations require a
> > good deal of additional work before they are
> > publishable in the usual sense and recognizable
> > by the world beyond dissertation examiners.
> >
> > The future of STM publishing is a great topic
> > for magazines that have a short shelf life.
> > They can attract a curious readership and sell
> > lots of advertising by puzzling over questions
> > without answers.
> >
> > I for one have serious doubts whether the future
> > of any industry niche would be a fit subject for
> > a student dissertation. Most predictive visions
> > offered decades ago by "experts" are today only
> > meaningful as evidence of lobbying and other
> > promotional efforts. Book or dissertation, I
> > would expect to shelve this topic near astrology.
> >
> > Albert Henderson
> > Former Editor, PUBLISHING RESEARCH QUARTERLY 1994-2000
> > <>
> >
> >
> > .
> > .
> >

David Goodman
Research Librarian and
Biological Science Bibliographer
Princeton University Library
Princeton, NJ 08544-0001
phone: 609-258-7785
fax: 609-258-2627
Received on Fri Jul 19 2002 - 19:42:23 BST

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