6,000 and counting: Cambridge Vice-Chancellor joins Stephen Hawking in making his PhD ‘Open Access’

Cambridge also becomes first UK university to publish position statement on Open Research

University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen J Toope, has become the 6,000th graduate of the 810-year-old university to make his thesis freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world, via Open Access – joining the late Professor Stephen Hawking and thousands of other former students on the university repository Apollo.

Cambridge Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen J Toope

Cambridge Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen J Toope

Professor Toope’s 1986 PhD thesis: Arbitrations Involving States and Foreign Private Parties: A Study In Contemporary Legal Process became the 6,000th thesis submitted to Apollo, reaffirming the University’s commitment to the principles of Open Access and making Cambridge research freely available to other researchers and members of the public across the world.

The announcement of the 6,000th thesis also coincides with the ratification and publication of the University’s position statement on Open Research, which has been published here. The University statement sets out the key principles for the conduct and support of Open Research at the University of Cambridge, which aims to increase inclusivity and collaboration, unlock access to knowledge and improve the transparency and reproducibility of research.

As it stands, the majority of scholarly journals published worldwide are only available to people who pay a subscription or who are members of an institution who pays a subscription. However, from October 2017, all Cambridge PhD students have been required to deposit both a hard copy and an electronic copy of their thesis to the University Library.

This means that the collection of this valuable research at the University will continue to grow into the future.

“As I make my PhD thesis Open Access, I hope to reaffirm, in a modest way, our University’s unshakeable commitment to sharing research that has sought to interrogate, understand and, in some cases, change the world around us.

“I follow in some very distinguished footsteps, including those of the late, great Professor Stephen Hawking – who made headlines around the world when his PhD thesis was made Open Access. I realise my thesis won’t attract anywhere as much attention as Professor Hawking’s did, but I hope the symbolic gesture will encourage other graduates to follow suit.

“Making our work Open Access helps to further the global reach of Cambridge’s research, while enabling Cambridge-based researchers to use open material from their peers and colleagues.

"In doing so, it accelerates the pursuit of knowledge and helps foster truly international collaboration – which is more important to universities, including Cambridge than it has ever been.”

Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge

Overall, Apollo has more than 237,000 items in the repository with more than 3.6m total downloads for the period October 2017-Sept 2018. Eighty-four per cent of downloads came from outside the UK. Even discounting the 1.4m downloads of the Hawking thesis, University of Cambridge theses were downloaded 790,000 times in the same period.

In 2018, the University of Cambridge topped Altmetric’s Top 100 for the institution with most mentions. The list reveals which research captured the public’s imagination over the last 12 months, with ten of the top 100 publications authored by researchers with a Cambridge affiliation.

The news of the Vice-Chancellor depositing his thesis in Apollo also comes 100 years after the University of Cambridge first began awarding PhDs to its students. More than 39,000 PhDs have been awarded and stored in the University Library archives since the establishment of the degree in May 1919.

Dr Danny Kingsley, Deputy Director Cambridge University Library, and Head of Scholarly Communication and Research Services, said: “The University of Cambridge is the first UK university to have a position statement on Open Research and this underlies our commitment to ensuring our research is robust, relevant and world-changing. Open Research directly addresses issues of reproducibility and transparency which have been of increased interest to not only our research community but to governments, funders and the citizenry worldwide over the past few years.”

“Cambridge theses are the most highly read items in our repository. They represent a significant resource where innovative and highly diverse research areas are explored in great depth. The most popular theses range across a wide variety of research areas, indicating that our theses have a broad appeal. The requests come from all points of the globe, and from people ranging from school students, to patients and professional practitioners.

Dr Danny Kingsley

Dr Danny Kingsley

“The work of the Open Access team over the past four years to dramatically increase the availability of the research output of the University has been outstanding. They process approximately 1,000 deposits of Cambridge research articles a month. Combined with running the largest number of research datasets in any institutional repository in the UK and a very significant increase in the number of theses, this work means that the impactful and significant research undertaken at Cambridge is now available to the community in a way that has never been seen before.

"This is a small part of the University’s wider mission to contribute to society at the highest level of excellence.”