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Electronic thesis, dissertation proposed

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 11 - November 2, 1995

A proposal that electronic submission of theses and dissertations be required by fall 1996 has gone to the Degree Requirements, Standards, Criteria, and Academic Policies (DRSCAP) committee of the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies.

John Eaton, associate provost for graduate studies, explained at the October 18 commission meeting that the Graduate School has Acrobat software that will allow documents to be converted to PDF files that can be received by different computer platforms and operating systems. Electronic dissertations and theses will be forwarded to the library and made available on the World Wide Web, and thus "be much more useful to scholars" than print documents.

Len Peters, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School, told the commission that as a result of efforts of Eaton, Gail Macmillan in the library, and Ed Fox in computer science, Virginia Tech is further along than other universities. "Schools throughout the southeast want to form a consortium of graduate schools and libraries and use the Virginia Tech platform as a model."

Eileen Hitchingham, dean of libraries, added that the project is "a prototype for much of the research publishing we do and offers an opportunity to say how people will use it."

Asked if he anticipates people having any problems with getting their theses into the electronic format, Eaton said that charts and diagrams can be merged with text, and photos can be scanned. Joe Merola added, "All my students in chemistry have gone to putting everything together including photographs...in computer documents."

Eaton said, "We're giving as much guidance as we can. As we discover new needs, we'll strive to meet them."

Asked about storage and delivery, Eaton said PDF files are much smaller than scanned pages and can be delivered over the net. He also pointed out that having the thesis or dissertation available electronically means it could be delivered for review to a committee member who is out of town or out of the country.

Further discussion of the electronic dissertation was planned for the October 21 meeting of research and graduate administrators.

Eaton also delivered to the DRSCAP committee proposed guidelines for university-wide graduate program review, proposed guidelines for compliance with PM 126, which requires all departments to submit outlines of their current requirements to the Graduate School, and a proposal for preview at the college and program level of the budget and resource allocations required when new graduate programs are proposed.

Graduate program review was recommended in the Research and Graduate Studies restructuring plan as necessary to assure quality programs. Eaton pointed out that several programs are reviewed by accrediting agencies or by other organizations, but there is no uniform program review of all programs.

Hitchingham reported that the libraries are focusing on user services. In response to questions, she said the library spends about half of its budget on materials and half on salaries, compared to most research libraries, which spend one-third of their budgets on materials. "It means we've pinched ourselves on services to the more than one million people who come through the door," she said. Virginia Tech is eighth out of the 100 research university libraries in material expenditures, and 98th in expenditures on services, "although we have most of the services offered at other research university libraries."

In other business:

The commission approved awarding the master of science degree in entomology posthumously to Byron Dowell, who drowned in the New River. Dowell had completed all his course work and the majority of his research, according to his major professor, Richard Fell.

The Graduate Student Appeals committee received two appeals.

Gene Brown will chair the Graduate Student Relations committee.

Graduate and Professional School Day drew about 700 students. The University of Georgia and Penn State were the busiest, Bryan Rowland reported.