Persistent IDs and Theses: ETD2016, Lille

The International Symposium on Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) is an annual get together exploring all-things thesis and PhD research. I was there to present a poster on how THOR is developing improved support for identifiers in the British Library’s thesis service, EThOS.

We have previously engaged with UK universities to see how they are already applying identifiers to their theses and data, and what could be done to move that along; we then added support in the EThOS metadata for author identifiers and thesis DOIs. Now as part of THOR, we are planning to push that further by facilitating the development work necessary to enable users to claim theses in EThOS in their ORCID record. This will also enable EThOS to look at completing the round trip, pulling ORCIDs from those claims into EThOS.


Currently, anyone with a thesis in EThOS can only add it to their ORCID record manually. This process is prone to errors. Enabling a claim button on EThOS records will make it quicker and easier for researchers to add their thesis to ORCID. If we can then can retrieve claims information from ORCID, we can add links for users to find more works by that author.

There is still one link in this process that is slow to appear in the UK: persistent identifiers for the thesis itself. Many have Handle identifiers from their host repository, but we want to encourage further use of persistent identifiers for theses to make them more easily discoverable and accessible, especially where they are being cited. Having a link for the thesis and its data will also help to maintain the link between the two. We hope this will encourage students to think of their data as a separate, valuable output from their years of hard work, and implant the seed of good data management and sharing right at the start of their careers. So as well as the technical work to develop EThOS, we are working with universities to encourage them to apply persistent identifiers to their theses – and the data from the thesis.

ETD was a great venue to talk to the other repository managers who were interested in applying this work within their own repositories, and a welcome opportunity to answer their questions about the advantages to their institutions – and their students – of our planned approach.

A couple of recurring questions arose:

1. I have Handles in my repository for items already. Will they do?
Technically, yes. Having handles on your theses and related data will certainly enable you to take advantage of consistent linking and citation of the theses. But we do see additional advantages in the use of DOIs. These are: 1) recognition by researchers; 2) the additional governance of DOIs, providing a safety net in terms of long-term persistence.

2. When should our students get ORCIDs? How can we encourage them?
Your students should make sure they have an ORCID as soon as they are ready to publish their first output, whether that be a paper, a dataset, a poster or a conference proceeding.  The first thing institutions can do to encourage them is practice what you preach: demonstrate how you, as repository staff, can bring together your own publications and outputs, and the advantages it has for you!

The poster, which outlines our aims, challenges and potential solutions, can be found online at: