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I just got my Ph.D. degree majoring Chemical Engineering this month and I will start my research career. I am a new researcher. I wonder whether I can post my full dissertation (currently only viewable by people in my institution) on a personal website or ResearchGate?

I studied in a private university. For my university, our dissertations are only available to our university community (Faculty, Staff, and Students). In my opinion, I think dissertation should be easy access and free of charge. I know for my research area, nobody would be really interested in reading dissertations, because we all know our dissertations are just a combination of our journal publications, and I have published 4 journal papers already. But I still hope my dissertation could be easy to access by the public.

Therefore, I wonder whether I could publish my dissertation on ResearchGate? Or due to potential copyright concern, should I just leave a comment on my website like: "If you are interested in reading my dissertation, please contact me and I will send you a copy."

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It's important to consider what rights you have to your work after having submitted the bulk of it to journals, rather than to the thesis itself. I don't think it's possible to give a generic answer that will apply to everyone, because it depends on your specific agreements.

While it is common for journals to waive certain exclusive rights they have to allow you to include your work in a "stapler-style" thesis, that doesn't mean they've given up all their exclusive rights to that content. They may have given permission for the content to be in a thesis that's available within your institution, but not available publicly, for example.

You already have 4 journal articles; as you say, very few people will be interested in reading your thesis. I'd focus on just those journal articles, and make them as accessible as you can given the terms under which you've licensed them. You'll probably have to check with each individual journal, but it's possible they are already available publicly in some fashion or will be in the near future after some predetermined time has elapsed (if the journals support some level of open access; if not, perhaps this should have been a consideration when you originally submitted the papers). It's also possible they already give you permission to share on a personal web site, and it's possible that they allow for a draft of the manuscript before it went through the journal's process to be posted on a preprint archive like arXiv (or whatever preprint archive is commonly used in your field).

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Normally, the candidate retains the copy-right for the dissertation. Thus, feel free to publish it where-ever you want, (after you checked that you did not violate your alma mater's rules and regulations). It is hard for me to imagine a situation where you do not have the copyright for the thesis.

For visibility, the most important aspect is whether your thesis will be found by search engines. Publishing it on ResearchGate is one way, another is to have a website hosted preferably on a site with an edu extension. Having a web-site with your publications and links is important. A thesis in some cultures and languages (e.g. Germany) is already a publication since it is supposed to be freely accessible, even if this means that one has to go to the university library.

Even if you no longer have the copy-right for your journal articles, there are ways to advertise their existence. For example, you can publish the abstracts or your resumen of the article on your website. Getting people to read your papers is as important as writing it in the first place, so you need to make them easy to find and read, within the confines of your agreements with the publisher.

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  • Thanks for your advice. In my dissertation, it says Copyright @ "My Name." But my university just made our dissertation avaiable to university comminity, May 12 at 5:22
  • A dissertation is not really a private document and the university should be able to distribute it to the university community or at least your department. Even if you have the copyright, you gave the university permission to circulate it because you submitted it as your thesis. You have asserted the copyright with your statement, but this does not quite say that you have it. It would be rare if the university asserted the copyright itself. There might be other right holders, e.g. if there were non-disclosure agreements or if the thesis contains work that is going to be used for a patent.
    – tschwarz
    May 12 at 10:26

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