Open access thesis opens doors to employment
“An open access thesis will give employers an idea of the potential employee’s expertise and person,” says Ville Tahvanainen, who published his thesis as an open access publication. Currently working as an early stage researcher at the Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, Tahvanainen completed his Master's degree last year and didn’t hesitate to publish his Master’s thesis as an open access publication.
“Master’s theses inspire discussion and provide additional perspectives into a topic, and their role should not be undermined or belittled,” Tahvanainen says.
Jarmo Saarti, the Director of the University of Eastern Finland Library, agrees.
“Master’s theses are surprisingly much-read documents. They are read by other students and professionals in particular. A good topic and a good discussion of it might even earn the author some news coverage and a chance to influence society.”
According to Saarti, employers regard open access Master’s theses as business cards of a kind, and not making one’s Master’s thesis openly accessible raises the question of why it can’t be shared with others.
Department of Geographical and Historical Studies sets an example
Last autumn, the University of Eastern Finland Library recognised the Department of Geographical and Historical Studies with an award for its activeness in open access publishing of Master’s theses. Last year, 80 per cent of the department’s Master’s theses were open access publications, whereas the university’s average was 40 per cent. What’s the secret?
“Our entire Master’s thesis process, starting from supervision, is such that files and comments are shared electronically. This also gives students a signal encouraging them to publish their theses as open access publications,” Minna Tanskanen, the Head of the department, says.
Moreover, information about the benefits of open access publishing has been actively disseminated in Master’s thesis groups.
“Campus libraries no longer have shelves designated for Master’s theses, and paper copies are not stored at the university,” Tanskanen points out.
Many students invest a lot of time and effort in their Master’s theses, and Tanskanen would like to see them get the appreciation they deserve.
“We also seek to educate our students about social responsibility and to encourage their participation in societal discussion, and theses play a role in all this.”
Tahvanainen applauds his department for systematically introducing the process of electronic publishing to students throughout their studies.
“We are being reminded that scientific works are public, no matter their type. I like to look at theses as reference materials that allow me to get an overall picture of a given topic.”
Smooth publishing processes and training
The Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies has been piloting an electronic Master’s thesis process, which will now be actively introduced to the rest of the university. The library’s goal is to publish all types of theses as open access publications in the future. Currently, the University of Eastern Finland’s activeness in open access publishing of theses is at an average level among Finnish universities.
“We seek to make the publishing process as easy as possible by working together with our faculties and academic departments. In addition, we organise training on open science and on the significance of open access publishing,” Saarti says.
He points out that only published data can result in advances in science, and making oneself open to criticism constitutes part of the process.
“That’s a part of what being a researcher and an expert is. A published Master’s thesis is something to be proud of – and something that should be made available to others online, too. As a rule, Master’s theses are public documents to begin with.”
Although the Department of Geographical and Historical Studies is doing a good job when it comes to open access publishing of theses, Tanskanen feels that the numbers could nevertheless still go up.
“When we were presented with the award, I promised that we’ll keep improving our performance.”