The preparation and publication of dissertations can be viewed as a subsystem of scholarly communication, and the treatment of data that support doctoral research can be mapped in a very controlled manner to the data curation lifecycle. Dissertation datasets represent “low-hanging fruit” for universities who are developing institutional data collections. The current workflow for processing electronic theses and dissertations (ETD) at a typical American university is presented, and a new practice is proposed that includes datasets in the process of formulating, awarding, and disseminating dissertations in a way that enables them to be linked and curated together. The value proposition and new roles for the university and its student-authors, faculty, graduate programs and librarians are explored.

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