Two cheers for Imperial Spiral: Hamburgers but no Cows

Typed into Arcturus (it’s difficult to use speech with URLs – at least till I know better)

I have spent an exciting and intense day with Henry Rzepa at Imperial College. For those who don’t know Henry has been an energetic and faithful collaborator for nearly 20 years. Henry and I are the co-authors of CML and we are now planning the next phase of CML. I’ll write more about that later.
One thing that Henry mentioned was that Imperial now had a seamless mechanism for the capture of PhD (and presumably MSc) theses into their repository, Spiral. Here’s the list of chemistry theses:
This gives about 22 theses though I assume it’s updated regularly.
The positive thing is that this is AUTOMATIC and managed  by the registry and  library (see Henry’s comment). Any student that submits a thesis has to do it in electronic form. It’s then processed, possibly revised, and finally submitted again in the same way. The details may be wrong, but the effect is that the College (effectively an independent University) has captured and will continue to capture its chemistry in electronic form.
So why only two cheers? Do readers of the blog really have to ask?
The theses are only available as PDF (or as sometimes called “Acrobat”). This is NOT semantic. Not machine readable. Not text-minable. Not machine-parsable. Not semantic chemistry. Not useful for non-sighted organisms (including machines). The technical term for highlighting its limitations is “hamburger”.
The solution is simple. Provide the thesis in its original born-digital form (“the cow”). And provide the hamburger as well. The humans can read the hamburger, the machines can read the cow and enhance it for humans. The external examiner can ask her machine to read the cow. The machine can offer suggestions as to what is going on in the thesis. Everyone benefits.
The cow does not have to be Word+Chem4Word but it’s the most appropriate way for chemistry. A lot better than PDF alone.
However Imperial does not have the largest number of exposed theses. I wonder which UK university does? Comments welcome.

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2 Responses to Two cheers for Imperial Spiral: Hamburgers but no Cows

  1. Andrew Walker says:

    UCL has 737 theses exposed. As far as I can tell these are mostly full text hamburgers but a small number are just the abstract and metadata. I cannot see any cows in the list but the repository isn’t tied to a particular file format.
    This URL is supposed to produce an up to date list:
    IIRC Imperial College is now University in all ways, having removed itself from the University of London

  2. Henry Rzepa says:

    Peter, I believe that the process of electronic deposition of e-theses is certainly initiated by the Registry, although the repository itself is managed by the library.

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