ProQuest Drops Dissertation E-Submission Fees

By Josh Hadro

In a move with potentially broad implications for the world of Electronic Dissertations and Theses (ETD), ProQuest has dropped the fees for those using its ETD Administrator program and interface. Previously, the basic submission of dissertations cost $65, while theses cost $55.

Some 60% of ProQuest's annual ETD submissions (out of more than 70,000) come via the Administrator interface, a service that debuted in 2003. It allows on-campus designates to vet and prepare ETDs for direct inclusion in ProQuest's Dissertations and Theses product as part of local archival workflows.

The cost was initially associated with processing print submissions, and grew over time with inflation, even as new technology eventually automated the process, presumably lowering costs. Acknowledging those efficiencies, the company says "the resulting cost savings are being passed along to users."

Likewise, the fee for more manual ETD submissions (via FTP or CD/DVD) has been reduced to $25. The $95 fee for Open Access Publishing remains unchanged, as do the charges for paper delivery.

A changing market
In addition to passing on savings of efficiency, there also appears to be a certain competitive element to the fee reductions.

While submitting documents to ProQuest was once part and parcel of completing a thesis or dissertation, a small but growing number of schools are dropping that submission requirement. So representatives of some of those schools see ProQuest's offer of a no-fee method via the ETD Administrator as one way for the company to preserve that submission relationship.

Indeed, Austin McLean, ProQuest's director of dissertations publishing, told LJ, "We expect the move to our no fee model to increase the number of sites. In addition, we are making extensive outreach internationally to increase the number of ETDs outside North America. Researchers increasingly want a global audience for their work and we're aggressively supporting that."

Currently, 300 schools use the ETD Administrator interface, with another 50 sites in the works, according to McLean.

Managing the flow, and curtailing costs
For schools still weighing their options in terms of ETD management and institutional repository policies, a no-fee ProQuest option may prove attractive. Sarah Shreeves, IDEALS repository coordinator for the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, told LJ that many of "those on the fence" about founding local repositories to manage ETDs are now likely to choose ProQuest.

"It's very rare in this climate to reduce fees," she added, "and that's a huge motivation."

At an average of 125 submissions over the 300 sites per year, according to ProQuest, authors at each school stands to collectively save some $8125 annually.

Very large institutions, like the University of California, Berkeley, which publishes "approximately 825 dissertations annually, will save as a group more than $50,000 through the elimination of the fee," according to the company.

Alternative routes
Still, the recent release of new ETD submission and management interfaces like Vireo from the Texas Digital Library, and OpenETD from Rutgers coupled with a trend toward making ETDs openly accessible online points toward at a more fragmented future for graduate research.

Similarly, the partnership between Stanford and Google to seed ETDs directly into the search engine's indexes implies an embrace of the search-first method of tracking down dissertations.

The argument for centralization, of course, is that authors who want their research made as visible as possible will want to be included in ProQuests' Dissertation & Theses product—which sees more than 200 million searches annually.

"We believe the vast majority of universities want to maximize the dissemination of their graduate research, which means providing it to every channel it has available," said ProQuest's McLean. "This means sending the dissertation to ProQuest—where it becomes part of the world's most consulted database of graduate research—loading it on the university institutional repository, the student's website, etc. Because ProQuest has a non-exclusive agreement with the author, this is completely compatible with our services."

In the end, Shreeves described the fee drop as "a very smart move on the part of ProQuest to encourage people to work with them," as well as a way to raise the profile of all ETD efforts and "broaden the conversation."

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