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I just heard about "dissertation embargoes". My institution recommends that every graduating student place an embargo on their dissertation.

What is a dissertation embargo, and what is its purpose?

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    This is the first time I have ever heard of such a thing. Could you provide a link please? – Shion Sep 12 '14 at 19:42
  • What institution is it? – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 12 '14 at 22:18
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An embargo effectively withholds your dissertation from being placed on your institution's open-access dissertation archive (from which anyone can view/download your dissertation).

I have placed an embargo on my dissertation so that I may attempt to get a few more papers published without my dissertation being searchable on the web. It is a common practice in the department where I did my PhD (though, I wondered sometimes if it was really necessary).

For a more complete list of reasons why one would choose to place an embargo on their dissertation, I'm listing here an excerpt taken from a University of New Mexico page:

Embargos may be appropriate for authors 1) who are seeking patents, 2) who want to publish their work through a traditional press that considers open access publication to be equivalent to prior publication, 3) who have published material from their work with a publisher that does not allow open access release for a certain period of time, or 4) who need to protect sensitive data or information.

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    Pardon my question: it is not meant to be combative; this practice is all but unheard of to me. You write "I have placed an embargo on my dissertation so that I may attempt to get a few more papers published without my dissertation being searchable on the web." Could you explain why placing your thesis on the web stops you from publishing papers based on it? Doesn't restricting access to your thesis augment inequity (i.e., some people have obviously seen your thesis work; why doesn't the field as a whole have a right to see it?) and retard progress in your field? – Pete L. Clark Sep 12 '14 at 22:21
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    @PeteL.Clark My advisor and another committee member (both EEs) suggested that I place an embargo on my dissertation mainly due to point 2 above in the UNM excerpt (I had an applied math faculty member on my committee who didn't think it was necessary). At the time that I requested the embargo, I was not absolutely convinced that it was necessary for this reason; however, I also needed to request an embargo as my research was partly supported by DoD funds, and I was required to clear my dissertation with the DoD for "public release," a process which (from my experience) can be somewhat slow. – Mad Jack Sep 12 '14 at 23:31
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    My case was 3), I have included a previously published paper and the Springer forbid that part of the thesis to be accessible online. – Vladimir F May 30 '15 at 15:05
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A "dissertation embargo" means that access to the dissertation is restricted for a limited period of time (typically one or two years, but possibly longer).

Possible reasons to embargo a dissertation include:

  • You would like to patent some of the work described in the dissertation. The published dissertation would constitute prior art.
  • The dissertation includes data covered by a nondisclosure agreement for a limited period of time.
  • You intend to publish the dissertation as a book, with a publisher that restricts consideration of manuscripts based on publicly available dissertations.
  • Not only books, papers too in some journals I think. Otherwise +1 :) – yo' Sep 13 '14 at 13:00
  • Not only books, but both journals and some conferences in my field have embargo periods. – Fomite Jul 8 '16 at 21:58
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I know of one dissertation that has been on embargo. The person who wrote it has not said why, but I suspect it may be related to the content. It sets forth new and well-tested scientific methods to detect the secret burials of crime victims and mass graves associated with human genocide. A number of dictatorial regimes on this planet would love to get their hands on the contents of this dissertation because they could be used to make their mass burial dirty work less detectable and make it less likely that they would someday be put on trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity (see Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, etc.). Sometimes there are very good reasons to withhold a dissertation — even for many years.

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When I graduated, I chose the embargo period as 5 years, because I need this 5-year to have my publication published on peer-reviewed journals. For my dissertation, besides the first and the last chapters, my goal is to have all of them published.

But sometimes I wonder, when all the chapters of my dissertation are published, what is the point of releasing my dissertation???

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