A PhD Student’s Case for Embargoes

Note: I welcome this opportunity to expound more fully on a few quotes from me in a New York Times piece about the AHA statement. You can find my Storify of the debates on Twitter and in the blogosphere related to the statement here. It is also worth reminding readers that the opinions in our pieces are those of the author and not of the blog as a whole.

A recent policy recommendation by the AHA on the embargoing of dissertations—i.e., limiting online access and distribution for a specified period of time—has created quite a stir in the blogosphere and on Twitter. Many are criticizing the AHA for a reactionary policy that concedes the status quo, i.e., the undue influence and interest of university presses in hiring and tenure decisions and the profession’s overall laxity in adapting to the digital revolution.

Let me be clear from the outset: I am not defending the AHA’s statement, per se. It does indeed ignore the broader issue of what the AHA intends to do about the long-term, systemic problem of the profession’s transition into the digital era, more generally. I am, however, going to defend the policy of allowing students the option to embargo. Continue reading