Friday, April 7, 2017

ProQuest is a Scam

One of the institutional requirements for getting our degree here, as with most institutions of higher learning, is to submit our dissertations/theses through ProQuest. Nominally, this spreads our work so that others may read it. In practice, it's just another method by which graduate labor is often exploited.  Specifically, ProQuest does this:
  1. It sells access to dissertations/theses that it gets for free (often the fruits of years of hard labor by graduate students)
  2. It wants a fee of $95 dollars if you want your dissertation listed as "open access." Incidentally, the only argument against embargo or suppression of a diss/thesis is the alleged ideal of the free exchange of ideas.
  3. The option for embargo is deliberately confusing and deceptive. In fact, I wouldn't have been able to do it successfully if our helpful CGS staff member hadn't told me exactly what to watch out for.
  4. After selling access to your dissertation, ProQuest then offers to "protect" your work by securing a copyright for you -- for $55 dollars.
  5. As if all that wasn't enough, it then allows you to order copies of your dissertation or thesis. . . . basically selling you your own work for around $40 - $50 dollars a copy.

I put an embargo on my own dissertation because a small but growing number of publishers are considering ProQuest a form of prior publication. This is understandable; in an era of decreasing public money for libraries, libraries are increasingly unlikely to buy expensive academic books if they can get substantially the same content as part of their ProQuest subscription. Even if I didn't have such clear academic publication goals in mind, though, I probably would have embargo'd my work out of pure Yankee cussedness.

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