Digital Access to SFU Theses: Advantages and Issues

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Those applying for or enrolled in graduate study at SFU need to understand the terms of their degree program, published in the University Calendar, under degree completion. If your program has chosen to require thesis submission to the Library, the thesis you submit will be publicly accessible.  Research/writing for a thesis needs to be shaped with this in mind. 

Library support for open access publishing

Open access publications are free to read on the open Internet. Readers do not need subscriptions or any other form of payment, either personally or through their university or library, to view the content. Readers can download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any lawful purpose, as long as credit is given to the authors, without financial, legal or technical barriers. SFU Library supports graduate students who wish to publish their work open access in the following ways:

  • covers Article Processing Charges for unfunded graduate student authors who publish in open access journals through the Library’s Central Open Access Fund
  • uses Summit to help you communicate the results of your research back to the community, or comply with funder requirements such as those from CIHR, Genome Canada, and others
  • develops open source software for journal production and publishing (Open Journal Systems) and conference planning and publishing (Open Conference Systems).

Summit and your thesis

All electronic graduate student theses submitted to the SFU Library will be transferred to Summit, SFU's Research Repository.  Summit is part of a broader open access strategy to share SFU research outputs with the largest possible audience.  SFU Library promotes effective, sustainable and economically viable models of scholarly publishing that provide barrier-free access to scholarly research.

The benefits of Summit include:

  • Retention of all rights to your thesis
  • Long term preservation of and web-based access to your thesis
  • No obligation to maintain your thesis on your own over time
  • Visibility through search engines such as Google Scholar, via Summit indexing.

If you cannot find your thesis in Summit, check the Thesis Registration System for a list of thesis submissions that have not yet been added to the SFU Library catalogue and Summit.

Advantages of a digital thesis

Consider some of the following benefits:

  • The free, online availability of your research will make it easier to find
  • The removal of price and permission barriers will make your research easier to use
  • A greater number of people will be reading, using and distributing your research
  • A larger audience for your research will result in widespread sharing of knowledge and the acceleration of research
  • Your work will be visible to every search and retrieval tool.

Remember: The more people that can access your work, the more it will be read, cited, and built upon.  Since citation counts are crucial to advancing your academic career, making your thesis freely and openly available is vital in maximizing the reach and impact of your work. 

Intellectual property and copyright

It is an SFU condition of graduation under university regulations that SFU theses (as well as School of Resource and Environmental Management projects and Economics PhD Essays) be deposited with Library Archives Canada (LAC) and be included in microfilm and digital form. This policy does not apply to other projects or extended essays.

By regulation, SFU students retain the rights to their work and are not required to sign away their patent or copyright to the University. Graduate students are required to submit their thesis/project/essay to the SFU Library and agree to a Non-Exclusive Copyright License (NECL).

Deposit your data

When you upload your thesis, you will be given the option to additionally deposit your supplementary file data (images, audio/video, tabular data, etc.) to Summit. While this is entirely voluntary, there are significant advantages to making your data available for reuse:

  • Preservation and accessibility of your data over time: depositing your data will ensure that it remains available and usable in the long term.
  • Enhances your scholarly reputation: researchers will be able to re-use and cite your data the same way they may re-use and cite your thesis now.
  • Allows others to build on your work and vice versa.

When you upload your data to Summit, the SFU Library will make the data publicly accessible and available for download. 

If you want to discuss data deposit further or need assistance in uploading your data, please contact .

Postponement of publication

You may request that your thesis be withheld from Summit and Library and Archives Canada for a period of 12 months from the date of the thesis defence (Graduate General Regulations).

For instructions on how to request postponement, see Postponement of Publication.

Sensitivity of data

Sensitive information concerns of research sponsors and/or host companies usually involve privacy for proprietary information and commercial advantage in a competitive environment. Companies who have permitted students to do inside research can be legitimately concerned about “insider information”, or patent and trademark material, being made available to competitors or publicly embarrassing them, with resulting loss of competitiveness or reputation.  This can impact a student’s integrity/reputation and employment. Students and academic supervisors can avoid creating a sense of betrayed trust by informing the company early in the project proposal stage about the need to balance company interests and scholarly standards, and shaping the project report accordingly.

Researcher proprietary interests

The university supports members of the university community seeking to patent and commercialize their research results.  However, it is up to the supervisor, team and student, in the course of writing the thesis, to negotiate the balance of interests between the academic practice of including all information so research can be validated by others, and proprietary protection of critical information needed to successfully patent the work. Postponement of publication is only a follow-up to fast early action in applying for patents, with care in writing and choice of illustrations for thesis defence and library submission.