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The Fate of Dissertations

In the US and Canada, recent PhD graduates are strongly encouraged to turn their dissertation into a book. The process generally involves a substantial effort. Post-doctoral fellowships are often devoted to the process. It can take years. Publishing a book from the research which comprises the dissertation is useful for a number of reasons. The dissertation is original research and to publish it means that that knowledge is shared, more easily available to a broad audience than it would be just through the Proquest Dissertation service. For those contemplating or pursuing an academic career, the publication of a scholarly book is generally required in order to acquire tenure.

In Sweden, in contrast, publishing the dissertation as a book is part and parcel of the process of submission. All dissertations are published - as is - as a book, a proper publication with a buyable edition run. There is, therefore, a tendency to write the dissertation with a book in mind from the beginning, as it will achieve that form like it or not. Obscure dissertations on less popular topics with no additional grants to fund their publication might be published in a run of 200 by the university press. Enough grants, however, and the results can be beautiful, lavishly illustrated coffee table-type books in larger runs. The one I looked through earlier today was printed in a run of 1500, but also has a larger built-in audience. I don't know if the dissertation/book therefore has less status or employment merit in Sweden than the dissertation-revised-into-book does in North America, but some truly lovely books can result as a consequence - and the information is that much more accessible to a wider audience.

I know that in the UK, books are not so important for getting university jobs, although publications in general are still important.