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Caltech Theses

Ph.D. theses must be submitted in electronic form as part of the graduation requirements for Caltech. This guide serves as a tool for this process.

Caltech Thesis Embargo Policy

Caltech Thesis Dissemination Policy (PDF, 104Kb)

The Policy describes the parameters under which thesis files may or may not be restricted to campus or fully embargoed.  Please read it thoroughly to understand your options and limitations.   Do note that even if the file(s) is/are restricted, the CaltechTHESIS record will be released to public access.

The latest updated Thesis Dissemination Policy on Embargoes was approved by the Faculty on 6 December 2021.  Scroll down to see the Full Text of Caltech Thesis Embargo Policy

Embargo Forms and Types

Embargo Forms

Any Caltech student depositing a dissertation or thesis into CaltechTHESIS may use this form to make it easier to track their embargo request. The restrictions outlined in the Caltech Doctoral Thesis Dissemination Policy apply exclusively to Caltech doctoral students - the stated reasons for wanting an embargo should fall within the Thesis Dissemination Policy's accepted parameters.

  • Request for Thesis Restriction to Campus-Only Access.  Use this form if you need to restrict thesis files to campus-access only for 6 months.  Readers logged into the Caltech IP range will have access to the files. First-time requests are automatically granted, but extension requests are sent to the Thesis Embargo Review Committee for approval.
  • Request for Thesis Full Embargo. Use this form if you need to fully restrict access to your thesis files, even from campus. All fully embargoed files are completely hidden from everyone except database administrators. Full embargo request are sent to the Thesis Embargo Review Committee for approval.
  • Request for Thesis Partial Embargo. Use this form if you need to partially restrict access to your thesis files, even from campus. You must upload a redacted PDF copy of your thesis that can exclude the portions that you wish to embargo.  The redacted copy will become publicly available, and will be swapped with the full thesis once the embargo period has expired.  Any fully embargoed files are completely hidden from everyone except database administrators. Partial embargo requests are sent to the Thesis Embargo Review Committee for approval.
  • Request for Thesis Embargo Extension. Use this form if you need to extend the current 6-month embargo for another 6 months, even if you are requesting a step-down from the current embargo status. Submit the extension request about 1 month before the expiration of the current embargo. Extension requests are sent to the Thesis Embargo Review Committee for approval.
  • Appeal of Denial of Thesis Embargo Request. **Submit the Appeal within 1-2 weeks of the notification that the Embargo Request was denied.** Use this form if your embargo request has been denied and you wish to appeal the decision. You should include more detailed and complete information in the Appeal, which will be reviewed by the Thesis Embargo Review Committee.

The Library will honor your embargo request while awaiting the decision of the Thesis Embargo Review Committee, as well as the resolution of any appeals.

Different Embargo Types

  • Public: No embargo.  File is available worldwide as soon as CaltechTHESIS record is fully released.
  • Restricted to Campus Access Only: Only readers logged into the Caltech IP range will have access to the thesis file(s)' contents.
  • Partial Embargo: You may request an embargo for only certain portions of your thesis , rather than the full thesis.  You must upload a redacted PDF copy of your thesis in addition to the full thesis. Add pertinent information to the relevant embargo form.
  • Full Embargo: Thesis files are completely hidden and unavailable to either the public or the Caltech community.

Length of an Embargo

  • A thesis may be embargoed for a maximum of two years with extension requests made every six months.  That is equivalent to the first six months plus three more 6-month extensions).
  • In rare circumstances, particular chapters may be embargoed for more than two years, but no more than five years with an annual review after the first two years.
  • If you anticipate needing to extend your accepted embargo, we highly recommend that you upload both a full thesis file as well as separate chapter files, into your CaltechTHESIS record.  This will make it easier to release portions of the thesis that no longer need to be embargoed during the extension period.
  • If your thesis files were fully embargoed, you and your advisor(s) will receive an email notification approximately one month before your thesis' access is scheduled to become unrestricted.

Good Reasons to Embargo a Thesis

The requestor must certify in the Embargo Request that both the student and the advisor(s) have discussed and mutually agree on the need for the embargo.

Pending Patents or License Agreements:

  • You should already be in contact with OTTCP if you have any potentially patentable or licensable subject matter included in your thesis
  • Either the full thesis and/or a particular chapter of the thesis can be fully embargoed.
  • Your patent application or licensing agreement may be far enough along in the process to obviate the need for any access restrictions for your thesis. Double-check with OTTCP on the status

Ongoing Research or Fear of "Being Scooped":

  • In exceptional cases, a full embargo may be considered when ongoing research in the thesis advisor's group would be severely affected by open access of the thesis.

Submitted Publications:

  • Publishers are currently highly unlikely to require that a thesis chapter be restricted or embargoed either before or after publication in a journal.
  • Contact the Library if you're not sure about your publisher's requirements, or if the publisher has given you contradictory information.
    • Publishers Thesis Policies Libguide. The overwhelming majority of publishers no longer require submitted papers to be embargoed. Many also treat CaltechTHESIS as the equivalent to many of the preprint servers now available, such as ArXiv.
    • Sherpa Romeo. Sherpa Romeo is an online resource that provides summaries on embargo policies by publication status for individual articles on a journal-by-journal basis.

Information Expected by the Thesis Embargo Review Committee

The requestor must certify in the Embargo Request that both the student and the advisor(s) have discussed and mutually agree on the need for the embargo.

In all cases, add the need information to the Reasons section of your embargo request form.

Publications:

  • Provide a plan for publication. Include specific journal titles to which you are submitting the paper(s), what their submission embargo policies are, and the length of time you think you will need.
  • Indicate if the journal is considered a high-profile journal in your field.
  • Provide a list of tasks that need to be completed before the paper(s) can be published.
  • Provide a projected timeline for bringing the embargo to an end.

Pending Patents or License Agreements:

  • Include identifying patent or licensing agreement information provided to you by OTTCP.
  • Provide a projected timeline for bringing the embargo to an end.

Ongoing Research:

  • A detailed explanation of why the research should be embargoed.
  • A projected timeline for bringing the embargo to an end.
  • Thesis advisor must document which current members in the research group would be affected, and how.

Embargo Extensions

  • The requestor must provide a detailed background of the circumstances, and specific plans for moving forward.
  • Provide a projected timeline for bringing the embargo to an end.
  • The thesis advisor must document which current members in the research group would be affected, and how.

"Partial Embargos" or How to Embargo Thesis Chapters

Yes! You may embargo either your full thesis file, and/or separate thesis chapter files.

  • If you are interested in restricting access to your thesis, ask yourself if you only need to embargo certain portions of your thesis. You may not need to embargo the whole thesis.
  • If a partial embargo will do, you have two choices in uploading your files:
    • Upload both your full thesis file AND a redacted thesis file.
      • The redacted thesis file can have the relevant material omitted.  On the page in the thesis where the omitted content would normally be, and add a statement to the reader saying something like "[This chapter is temporarily embargoed.]" or "[Intentionally redacted.]"
    • Specific chapter files can each have different embargo types and lengths.
      • Embargo levels for attached files in a CaltechTHESIS record do not need to match: each file can be either public, restricted to campus, or fully embargoed. For example, ch.1 could be publicly available, ch.2-3 could be restricted to campus, and ch.4 could be fully embargoed.
    • The full thesis file's embargo status will always match that of the most restrictive embargo status of any of the other chapter files at any given time over the lifetime of the embargo.
  • The full thesis will not become publicly available until the last of the restricted chapter files have been publicly released.

Notify the Thesis Embargo Review Committee of your Intentions:

  • If a partial embargo will do, upload both your full thesis file AND a redacted thesis file.
  • Be sure to tell the Thesis Embargo Review Committee of your interest in a partial embargo in the Reasons section of your Embargo Form. You'll want include why and which portions of the thesis you want to be embargoed.
  • The Thesis Embargo Review Committee does tend to look more favorably on partial embargos, especially when you are asking for an extension.

Embargo Request is Denied - Next Steps

  • If your embargo request is denied by the Embargo Review Committee, you may appeal the decision.  You must send your appeal request in writing, and it will be forwarded to the Committee for consideration.  It is highly recommended that any new and additional information that could boost your case be provided in the Reasons field.
  •  If your initial full embargo request is not approved and an appeal has not been submitted, your thesis file(s)’ access status will be changed to Restricted to Campus-Only for the same 6-months length of time.  You and your advisor(s) will be notified of the change.
  • If your request for an embargo extension is not approved and an appeal has not been submitted, your thesis' embargo status will be moved down to the next level, whichever is appropriate: from Full Embargo to Campus-Access-Only, or from Campus-Access-Only to Public Access. You and your advisor(s) will be notified of the change.
  • If an appeal has been submitted, the thesis' current embargo status will remain unchanged while the appeal is under review.  You will be notified when the decision has been made by the Embargo Review Committee.
  •  Both the student and the advisor must agree on the need for the appeal.

Who is on the Thesis Embargo Review Committee?

The Thesis Embargo Review Committee includes the University Librarian, the director of the Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships (OTTCP) as needed, the student's Division Chair, the Dean of Graduate Studies and the Vice-Provost.  Unanimous approval from the Committee is needed for requests for a full embargo, an extension of a current embargo, or an appeal of a denied request.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Text of Caltech Thesis Embargo Policy

Doctoral Thesis Dissemination Policy
David Chan, Dean of Graduate Studies
Kaushik Bhattacharya, Vice Provost
Update effective on December 6, 2021*

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is conferred by the Institute primarily in recognition of breadth of scholarship, depth of research, and the power to investigate problems independently and efficiently. The work for the degree must consist of systematic studies of an advanced character, of research, and the preparation of a thesis describing these. A thesis is to be a substantial new contribution to the field that would be released into the stream of scholarship.

Dissemination of the thesis

1. The dissemination of a thesis is guided by the Caltech open access policy that states, "The Faculty of the California Institute of Technology is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible."

2. Standard practice is to make a thesis openly available through CaltechTHESIS upon submission.

3. Graduate students and their advisors (either can make the request but both must agree) may request that either the entire thesis or a particular chapter of the thesis be embargoed for a period up to six months, during which time access will be limited to campus, in order to pursue publications and/or patents. The request must be made to the library in writing and must be approved by the University Librarian. The metadata associated with every thesis will be available worldwide upon submission. The embargo automatically expires after six months.

4. Exceptions, i.e., extending the embargo to include the campus or beyond six months, must be requested in writing. Either the graduate student or advisor can request, but the requesting party is expected to get the consent of the other, unless contact information is unknown. The request should provide a detailed background of the circumstances, specific plans for moving forward and a target date when the embargo can be lifted. The exception will require the consent of the University Librarian, the Division Chair, the Vice Provost, and the Dean of Graduate Studies. Examples of situations where an extension of the embargo may be granted:

  • (i) Portions of the thesis are included in a publication under review in a journal whose policy explicitly requires embargo. The written request must include documentation, and an additional six-month extension of the embargo may be granted.
  • (ii) A patent application or licensing agreement is under negotiation and the Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnership advises continued embargo. The written request must include documentation, and an additional six-month extension of the embargo may be granted.
  • (iii) In exceptional cases, an extension may be considered when ongoing research in the thesis advisor’s group would be severely affected by open access of the thesis. In such cases, the thesis advisor must document which members in the research group would be affected, and how.

5. The total period of the embargo is limited as follows:

  • a. A thesis may be embargoed for a maximum of two years with the request made every six months
  • b. In rare circumstances, particular chapters may be embargoed for more than two years, but no more than five years with an annual review after the first two years.

6. If the embargo extends to the campus, then a copy is made available on request to the Dean of Graduate Studies who can then make the copy available to others at his or her discretion.

*This document replaces the previous policy that was in effect since 1 March 2017