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My university requires that I upload my PhD thesis to ProQuest. ProQuest charges $95 for "open-access" publishing, while "traditional" publishing is free. I want to confirm my understanding here. "Open access" in this context really just means that ProQuest will make the PDF available in perpetuity for free. However, it does not mean that I cannot host or disseminate my thesis myself or use other open-access services, such as my university's library or arXiv. Does anyone know if this is correct? I’m pro-open access publishing, but I’d like to avoid paying this $95 fee.

Clarifying edit: This is not a duplicate of this question. That question is about the distinction between two different grades of open access publishing. My question is about whether or not I am interpreting a specific (and massive) open-access publisher's policies correctly. I've also edited my title to be more clear.

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    I think all open access publishing involves fees. I think $95 is incredibly low for this sort of thing. I've read quotes in the thousands here.
    – Buffy
    May 29 at 12:23
  • I recall paying $150. However, I think that included ProQuest filing for copyright in my name. In any case, I have a U.S. certificate of copyright that was sent to me by ProQuest.
    – Bob Brown
    May 29 at 12:53
  • Does this answer your question? What is the difference between "Green" and "Gold" Open Access?
    – henning
    May 29 at 13:03
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    What happened to depositing your thesis at your university library and they'll make it available for download?! May 29 at 16:24
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    @henning, sadly, no. I'll explain in an edit.
    – gwg
    May 29 at 17:03
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Here's ProQuest's author rights agreement for the "closed access" option (linked to from here). As you can see, they only ask for non-exclusive publication rights. So yes, using this option would leave you free to disseminate your thesis through other avenues. In my opinion, if you can host your thesis in some kind of stable repository (e.g. one provided by your university library) for free, there's no real reason to pay ProQuest for open access publication. Of course, if you want to, or can get someone else to cover the fee, there's no harm in redundancy. However, as far as I can tell, it doesn't seem to appreciably affect discoverability through search engines.

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    Maybe the reason why the university library mandates publishing with Proquest is that they want to cheap out on their hosting costs and leave the problem to someone else. May 29 at 17:58
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    @FedericoPoloni Maybe I'm not cynical enough, but I think it's more likely that the library sees a value in having large databases like ProQuest include as many theses as possible, from as many institutions as possible. That's rather different from the goals of a repository for a single institution. But that's under the assumptions that the library does not mandate paying ProQuest for open access and that they do provide hosting of their own.
    – Anyon
    May 29 at 18:12
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    Point taken, maybe I am too cynical. But, on the other hand, libraries who see value in a large unified database of theses can just join an existing consortium to build one, without involving a for-profit private company. May 29 at 21:52
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    @FedericoPoloni It turns out that, since 1999, ProQuest is an official off-site dissertation repository for the US Library of Congress, so dissertations sent there become part of the official collection. That may be part of the reason why ProQuest is favored in the US, along with the company being in the business of publishing dissertations for so long (since the 1930s, under the name University Microfilms). It seems reasonable for institutions to also support non-profit consortia like the one you mention, but judging by the list of members it doesn't seem too popular at the moment.
    – Anyon
    May 30 at 3:42
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According to this page at ProQuest the author retains copyright to things uploaded. This is unlike many traditional publishers that require copyright transfer. They also permit you to withdraw your dissertation in the future.

So, retaining all rights, you can do as you please in the future.

Also, the $95 fee is extremely low for a service that promises to host your work "in perpetuity". There is definite cost in that sort of thing that has to come from somewhere.

I don't know if they will waive the fee in some circumstances. And, it may be that your institution (or a grant) has a way to cover the fee. You can ask, of course.


Note that I host some content (more than a dissertation, though) and it costs me around $100 per year for the "privilege". But that is about the minimum I was able to find and still keep all rights.

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    What are the advantages with respect to paying Arxiv $0 to host the thesis there? May 29 at 13:23
  • @FedericoPoloni, there is probably less "noise" at ProQuest.
    – Buffy
    May 29 at 13:28
  • @FedericoPoloni, I found this discussion interesting: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/78228
    – gwg
    May 29 at 22:53
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    Any promise to do anything "in perpetuity" for a one-off payment is fraudulent by definition. There is no realistic guarantee that even an organization as big as the USA will still exist 1000 years from now. If you don't believe that, learn some history - e.g. the Roman Empire, the USSR, or plenty of other examples. (BTW, did you know ProQuest was bought by a different company less than two weeks ago?)
    – alephzero
    May 30 at 14:38
  • @alephzero, I'll just guess that people understand that pretty well. But an established business with a viable business plan that has already lasted over fifty years is a safer bet than some others.
    – Buffy
    May 30 at 14:46
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The fee seems on the low end, but perhaps your department has funds that can defray this expense or cover it.

You won't know until you ask.

Good luck.

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