Abstract: Theses and dissertations (TD) are academic research projects that are conducted by graduate students to acquire a high academic degree, such as a PhD. The perception of the written TD has evolved over the years, following changes concerning the purpose of advanced academic studies. Today, these academic fruits should meet a high standard of academic innovation, which is understood broadly as encompassing not only knowledge concerning basic science but also the knowledge that generates social and economic value for society.
The modern perception of TD has generated a call for their greater accessibility, as part of the Open Science movement. Nevertheless, in many countries around the world TD are not published in an open access format. While the normative basis for open access approach to publicly funded academic research is extensively discussed in the literature, there is a lack of legal and normative discussion concerning the special case of TD. The present study aims at filling this gap.
We argue that the essence of TD as unique outputs of academic research merits a special stance compelling the publication of these studies in open access format, subject to certain exceptions. This stance is underpinned by several arguments, which we develop in our study, based on historic and normative analysis. Moreover, we propose to establish a mandatory global policy and standardization regarding the publication of TD in designated repositories, open to the public, that would generate together an “open world wide web of TD.” Such a global framework will facilitate the progress of science and promote the public good worldwide.