What is Open Access?
Open Access is simply making published research results freely available to anyone with an internet connection rather than keeping those results hidden behind a subscription paywall. The term open access was coined in 2002 as part of the Budapest Open Access Initiative. There is considerable information about Open Access here.
Should I think about making my thesis available through Open Access?
Absolutely. Consider how much research goes into a PhD thesis and think about the number of PhD students worldwide. This is a huge resource of original research that will likely remain hidden unless shared. Making all of this work and its results freely available to everyone will be of great benefit to the worldwide research community.
What is the impact on my own work if I make it available?
It increases the visibility and exposure of your work by making it discoverable by search engines. This can lead to higher citation counts, increased potential for international and interdisciplinary collaboration and attention from publishers. It will also provide a stable, long-term URL that you can use to promote and share your work and allow you to monitor the impact of your research by tracking citations and downloads which you can advertise to potential funders or employers. By making a reference copy publicly available you are also better protected against plagiarism.
Am I required to make my thesis available?
Yes, if you are funded by any of the UK’s Research Councils. RCUK Training Grants have a requirement that students with funded PhD positions make a full text version of the thesis available no longer than 12 months following award of the doctorate. The RCUK Training Grant Guide states: "Councils recognise that commercial, collaborative or publication arrangements may necessitate a slight delay; the delay can be at the RO’s discretion but we expect the thesis to be deposited as soon as possible. The RCs expect the RO to have in place a documented process for determining where exceptions can be granted to the requirement for publication within 12 months."
For more information, see the overview of Open Access policies and funder requirements.