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Scholarly Communication


My thesis contains sensitive or restricted information. Can it still be made Open Access?

If your thesis contains information considered to be sensitive or restricted, you may need to embargo your thesis for a period of time before it can be made Open Access or in some cases, apply a restriction for a longer time period. Before you submit the electronic version of your thesis, you should read the information on what is considered sensitive or restricted information, below, and contact if you need further advice.

How do I apply for an embargo?

If you wish to apply for an embargo you should select this option on the thesis upload form when you submit your electronic thesis to Apollo. The maximum period you can request for the initial embargo of your thesis is 6 months. While the thesis is in the repository under embargo, any requests for a copy of the thesis go directly to you as the author to allow or refuse this request at your own discretion. We will contact you by email 1 month before the embargo is due to expire to ask if you wish to extend the embargo by a further 6 months (up to a maximum of 24 months in total) or if you wish to lift the embargo and make your thesis Open Access. Any embargoes on your thesis are automatically lifted at the end of the full embargo period of 24 months. Please note that some funder requirements mean that the maximum embargo period could be limited to 12 months, the Office of Scholarly Communication will advise if this is the case for your thesis when we contact you.

My thesis contains highly sensitive or restricted information. What is the longest time period I can embargo my thesis for?

In most cases the embargo period is limited to a maximum of two years from the date of submission of the electronic thesis. In some cases it may be appropriate to put a restriction in place after the initial 24 month embargo period, but such requests will be considered by the Office of Scholarly Communication on a case by case basis. If your thesis contains commercially or otherwise sensitive or restricted information and you need a longer embargo period, you should email and explain the reasons you are requesting this. If you are granted a further restriction after the initial embargo period, the restriction will not be lifted until it is judged that no damage will be done by making the information publicly available. Generally the University will agree to reasonable restrictions placed by candidates on their theses. However, if a requested restriction does not fall under one of the exemptions set out in the Freedom of Information Act 2000, access may have to be granted on demand.

What is considered sensitive or restricted information?

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 sets out the types of sensitive information to which legally-enforceable restrictions may be applied. The University of Cambridge is bound by this Act. It may decide to apply restrictions to other types of information, including theses deposited in the University Library or Departmental and Faculty libraries, but they are not legally binding if not falling under the Act.

The kinds of sensitive information most likely to be included in PhDs are:

  • Commercial (trade secrets or information which could damage commercial interests)
  • Health and safety (information which could damage the health and/or safety of an individual)
  • Information provided in confidence
  • Personal (as defined by the Data Protection Act 1988)

Sponsors may also impose confidentiality clauses.

Where can I obtain further advice on what constitutes sensitive information and appropriate restrictions?

If your questions have not been answered on this page, please email for further advice.