Embargoing a thesis

All research degree theses are expected to be made publicly available as soon as possible following the award of a degree, for anyone to read, download, print, copy and reuse. The University fully endorses the principles of open access and requires all researchers to make their research open access where possible to maximise research impact and to comply with funder policies where applicable.

Public funders recognise that factors such as commercial, collaborative or publication arrangements may necessitate a delay in the process of making a thesis openly accessible, and where this is the case, an embargo may be necessary. The maximum length of embargo permitted by public funders is usually 12 months, other than in exceptional circumstances. Universities are expected to have in place a process for considering where exceptions can be granted to the requirement for publication within 12 months.

Reasons for requesting an embargo

Students are permitted to embargo their thesis under certain conditions, e.g. where there are commercial sensitivities or where it is necessary to delay access to a thesis until after publication of results. Students should discuss with their supervisor whether they require an embargo and, if so, for how long. This discussion should take account of the need to ensure that research is made available as soon as possible and a consideration of the benefits that early publication can bring.

Requests for embargoes that exceed 12 months require faculty approval and must be accompanied by a clear rationale as to why a longer period is required. A form is available to request an extended embargo (see downloads). Extended embargoes beyond five years will not normally be approved unless there are very exceptional reasons. Examples of this may include where a contract has been signed requiring a longer embargo, or where there is a threat to personal security.  Where relevant evidence is available to support a request for an extended embargo, e.g. a copy of the contract, this should be attached to the request form.  

If an embargo is required, this must be indicated on the Access to Thesis form, otherwise the thesis may be made publicly available. Students are responsible for setting any embargo options at the point they upload their ethesis to the White Rose eTheses Online server. Failure to set an embargo may result in the ethesis being made publicly available.

Examples of exceptions for granting an extended embargo

Planned publication
  • There is often a long lead-time to get papers published in quality journals.
  • Cross-disciplinary research may also take longer to publish.
  • Where we are able to demonstrate that reaching the highest levels of academic excellence also has a long lead-time, and where the thesis contains data likely to be included in future research by the supervisor or collaborator.
  • To account for plans to publish monographs, as some publishers regard the ethesis as pre-publication.
Commercial confidentiality
  • Where there are contractual restrictions imposed by a sponsor. This could include industrial sponsors, overseas governments, etc. The contract must specify the details of the required embargo period and it is recommended that, wherever possible, this should not exceed 5 years.
  • Where the research might lead to a commercial application or patent and IP needs to be protected.
Contains personal data
  • The thesis contains personally identifiable or ethically sensitive data.*
  • Material obtained in the thesis was obtained under a guarantee of confidentiality.
*The implications of undertaking research involving identifiable participants should be considered at an early stage via the ethical approval process. Where possible, research participants should not be identifiable within the thesis.
Third party copyright
  • Where third party copyright has not been obtained, students may submit an edited ethesis, as an alternative to requesting an embargo. They would also need to submit an unedited hard copy.
Could endanger health & safety
  • The thesis contains sensitive material (political or otherwise) which could put at risk the authors or participants if made openly available.
Could prejudice national security
  • The thesis contains sensitive material, which must not be made publicly available.