While each institution will have differences as to the way in which its procedures are implemented and ETDs presented to satisfy local needs, for the potential of optimal global dissemination of ETDs to be achieved, adherence to basic standards is essential. These standards relate to document format and settings, filename protocols and metadata. Agreement on use of a small set of standard metadata elements can facilitate harvesting for creation of collaborative databases. While individual institutions can apply additional metadata including subject or format schemas as desired, if a minimum level of metadata is established, particularly if this metadata can be automatically generated, then any institution can access the document regardless of its resources and expertise. This provides an entry point for retrieval of an ETD from any institution without compromising the ability of other institutions to provide very rich metadata for their ETDs.
Cooperation and collaboration between institutions in the creation and dissemination of ETDs has a number of benefits. From the point of view of creating ETDs, the benefits include the utilization of software and procedures developed and tested by others, sharing generic training tools, sharing of expertise in problem solving and developmental work and the provision of mutual support. In the dissemination of information about research findings contained in ETDs, collaborative approaches can be particularly effective in small or developing countries where the total volume of ETDs may not be large. In these situations a national or regional approach can provide increased visibility, economies of scale and sharing of resources required to mount and maintain ETDs.
There are a number of models for cooperation and collaboration in creation, dissemination and preservation of ETDs. While the models can vary in detail, major elements are:
- Shared infrastructure
In this model, a central agency provides the infrastructure for publication, dissemination, maintenance and preservation of ETDs. The central agency provides the server and the network access to a central repository of ETDs. Other institutions cooperate with the central agency by supplying copies of theses or dissertations. These copies could be supplied in digital form, conforming to the basic standards, or the central agency can be responsible for ensuring a suitable digital version is created and made available. The central agency has the responsibility for maintaining archival versions. This model could operate at a supranational, national or regional level, or could be used by a group of universities with similar interests.
- Shared software development
Sharing of generic software, which is easily installed and maintained, can be a cost effective way of establishing an ETD program. This can be of particular benefit for institutions where staff with highly developed IT skills are in short supply. Collaborative development or modification of new versions of software can also be very cost-effective.
- Shared metadata
In this model, institutions publish and maintain digital theses on their own institutional servers but the metadata is harvested to produce a central database of details of the theses from the collaborating institutions. The metadata is linked to the full text of the ETD wherever it resides. The home institution retains the responsibility for the preservation of the ETD.
- Shared documentation and training tools
Sharing of detailed documentation on all aspects of operating an ETD program is a very cost effective method of collaboration. The development of generic procedures and training programs, which can be customized for local conditions, can facilitate the participation of institutions in an ETD program. Sharing of documentation is also likely to reinforce the use of standards, which will ensure the ETDs are readily discoverable
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