Should I have embargoed my thesis until I got a job?

As the data is becoming less interesting (wow, open-access research is accessed more often and more widely than limited-access research), and as the anniversary is becoming less significant (“n years ago, I completed a contract, woo…”) and more negative (“It’s been how long…? And I’ve made how much progress…?”), this is probably the last time I’ll put together the statistics for the readership of my thesis (on archaeological ethics in conflict zones)… But it has prompted an ugly, nagging thought.

Open-access thesis readership statistics

Over the past two years, there have been:

  • at least 539 downloads of the official copy from Sussex Research Online (SRO);
  • at least 98 downloads of the official and print versions from Conflict Antiquities;
  • at least 95 downloads of the official and print versions from Scribd;
  • (an unknown number of downloads from the British Library;)
  • (an unknown number of acquisitions through peer-to-peer e-mail circulation;)
  • more than 5,500 reads of the official and print versions on Scribd;
  • at least 311 Scribd-embedded views;
  • at least 127 Conflict Antiquities-embedded views; and
  • at least 99 views on Academia.

So, in total, there have been more than 700 downloads and more than 6,000 views.

Personally, I’m still glad that I made my work accessible as soon as possible and as easily as possible. Nevertheless, professionally, I am stuck with one new thought. After innumerable applications for jobs and funding over the same period (at least as many job applications as thesis downloads)…

Scribd

Even though my documents were outside Scribd’s paywall, in objection to its business model, I removed my work and closed my account. After 27 months, my thesis had had 6,181 views on Scribd (4,179 official, 1,683 print and 319 embedded) and 133 views (as an embedded document) on Conflict Antiquities.

I actually forgot to check the final download count but, based on the monthly rate, it was probably between 105 and 110. (As of the 19th of November 2013, there had been 110 downloads from Conflict Antiquities.) My Greek-language article on the destruction of Islamic Cypriot cultural heritage had had 453 reads and 4 embedded views.

All of my publications (and most of my unpublished papers) are still available on or through my blog.

Should I have embargoed my thesis until I got a job?

I’m obviously not implying that politics is the only possible reason for my continuing academic unemployment. Sometimes there will not have been enough money. Sometimes the judging panel/committee will have liked a particular rival application (or applicant). Sometimes my rivals’ applications will have been more urgent or more appropriate or simply better.

Nevertheless… Since I have been prevented from even applying for certain postdoctoral research funding explicitly because of my doctoral research findings… And since I have been prevented from interviewing for certain teaching positions apparently because of my doctoral research and/or independent work…

Should I have prevented hundreds of colleagues and hundreds of students from seeing my findings (including people who are at risk of the blacklisting that I prove, the mechanisms of which I demonstrate)? Should I have prevented hundreds of locals from learning about the lies that they are told, the crimes that are committed against (and by) their community, the state crimes that are committed in their name?

They may sound like mercenary considerations. But clearly my lack of employment has prevented me from investigating and documenting looting, destruction, propaganda, blacklisting…

They may sound like loaded questions. But I genuinely don’t know the answer. As the questions show, an embargo feels unprofessional and wrong. Yet some friends have (temporarily) embargoed access to their research and that seems logical and right.

Should I have kept schtum?

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6 Responses to “Should I have embargoed my thesis until I got a job?”

  1. I was advised against an embargo when I asked, but then, my PhD was in philosophy and the disciplinary conventions may be different for all I know. Besides, the record I was shown of previous discussion between staff on the subject seemed mostly to involve concerns about people’s being plagiarised or not being able to publish work as ‘new’, rather than academic politics in job applications.

    You’ll probably never know the overall costs and benefits; for example, I recently got back in touch with a well connected friend of the family and was surprised to learn that he’d downloaded and read my entire thesis, which has proved beneficial network-wise.

    I’m not sure there’s much of an alternative to nailing one’s colours to the mast after several years’ supervised research and a viva voce, even if one does have a writing sample handy on ‘why everything in my field is just super and all the people are so lovely’.

  2. I was advised to make mine public, as it was felt that citations were more likely than plagiarism, and more useful.

    Regarding the political implications of your thesis, rather than the practicalities and potential plagiarism of making it available, my gut feeling would be that anyone interested in funding that sort of research wouldn’t care about the politics of it, and anyone who ever interviews you about hiring you to continue to work in that field will most likely read some of your thesis anyway, and be aware of what it contains.

    So I would say no, it’s better that as much research as possible in this field is available…

    • Yeah, I do basically agree with you, although I think there might be gatekeepers who could block projects that would be worthy of consideration (such as the person who prevented me applying, when the funders themselves might have considered it, or the person who put the kibosh on the interview, when the could-have-been colleagues would have offered it), but I do realise that these are exceptionally Byzantine/Ottoman circumstances!

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