Publication of the PhD Thesis

I've defended my PhD thesis on 2020-11-26. After that I needed to publish my thesis in order to receive my PhD diploma. This is more complicated than it sounds.

Decades ago, when one did not have servers with PDF files, one had to publish the thesis with a lot of hard copies. And this unfortunately is still the default mode at the University of Bonn. So there are a bunch of hoops that one has to take in order to have the thesis published.

I took a couple days before I started this process. On 2020-12-01 I sent the PDF file via e-mail to the university library. They have a special address where I should sent it to. As the PDF file was so large, I have just uploaded it to my website and gave them the link.

In parallel I needed to register my thesis on some other platform of the library. There they did not accept the PDF, just the meta data. And the form had a “Submit” and a “Reset” button there. I mean, how many times does one actually want to reset a form? I thought that this “Reset” button died out decades ago. After registering my thesis there, I had to download a receipt, sign it and send it via e-mail to the university library.

On the website of the library they told me that I needed to make sure that my advisor is okay with me publish my thesis electronically. They did not mention any particular form. So I just asked my advisor and it was okay.

On the same day I got a reply from the university library. They told me that I needed to fix a thing on the title page, which was simple to do. On the second page it needs to say that the thesis was written with permission of the institute, the date of the defense and also the publication year of the thesis. I re-uploaded the PDF to my website and gave them the link again. Then it was fine. The registration of the PDF was also completed and they were going to ask the dean's office for permission to publish.

On 2020-12-03 I went to a copy shop and had my thesis printed three times. During the evening I rode to the university library and put two copies into the mailbox. At the institute I put one copy into the mailbox. On the envelopes I wrote »mandatory copy of PhD thesis« to make sure that it got forwarded to the right person.

The next day, 2020-12-04, the secretary of the institute wrote me an e-mail saying that she has received the printed version, and asked what it was for. She told me that the institute library wasn't really a thing. Well, I did have to submit one copy for that library, didn't I?

On 2020-12-04 I wrote to the dean's office and asked whether everythong was done now. I hoped that it was, but I had the hunch that something was missing. I didn't want to waste time by not asking proactively, so I started to routinely do that. As I feared, I got a reply on 2020-12-07 stating that they were still expecting some forms from me:

  1. Certificate which says that I do not have any further obligations, to be signed by the institute.
  2. Receipt from the institute's library that they received one paper copy of my dissertation.
  3. Certificate of publication of the thesis.
  4. Confirmation from the advisor that I may publish electronically as opposed to 150 paper copies.

On the same day I have forwarded 2 to the institute's secretary and asked her to sign these and send them to the dean's office. As I realized later, I forgot to forward form 1. I asked about form 3, as I didn't receive anything from the university library. So I asked for clarification about that on the same day. And I have forwarded form 4 to my advisor.

Independent of that I also received an e-mail from the university library. They had opened my envelopes and found that the printed version did not exactly match the PDF version. Somehow when I re-ran LaTeX to build my thesis with the updated cover page, a different version of biber re-formatted the bibliography. So I used qpdf to just exchange the title page and have a consistent PDF. I have fixed that on the same day as well.

From the dean's office I was told that form 3 is not needed if it is published electronically. It would be much easier if that was the default route, who really wants to print 20 copies instead of uploading a PDF file? But at least they could have mentioned it in the e-mail regarding the forms.

In the afternoon the university library sent me an e-mail confirming the two copies and told me that they would immedeatly send a notification to the dean's office. At least that is taken care of automatically!

I thought that everything would be finally in order, everybody submitted the forms that were needed. But as I did not hear anything, I just asked the dean's office again on 2020-12-13 to inform me of the status.

On 2020-12-14 I got the reply, stating that there still is the form 1 and 4 missing. I realized that I forgot to send it a week before, so I fixed that and send another e-mail to the institute's secretary. The secretaries of the institute took care of form 1 on 2020-12-15 and CC'ed me their e-mails.

Finally on 2020-12-22 I got the form signed which says that I may publish my thesis electronically. I forwarded this to the dean's office and asked whether this would be everything then. There they already were on christmas break, so nothing further happened in 2020.

On 2021-01-05 I got an answer from the dean's office. I was told that finally all forms are present there. She then allowed the library to electronically publish my thesis. Once the certificate and transcript would be availaable, she would notify my. As I have feared that I would have to pick it up at the university in person, I have asked her to mail it to me.

Still I haven't gotten my hopes up that I would receive the certificate by the end of that week. With all the delays so far, I will only believe it when I hold the certificate in my own hands. And so I could only mutter a lauch when on 2021-01-06 I got an e-mail by the university library stating that they finally got the permission to publish my thesis, but couldn't. The publication year I had put into the thesis on 2020-12-01 was “2020”. And well, then it was 2021. So the second page needed to be revised again before publication. They would fix it in the two printed copies by just sticking a patch on top. I would have to notify the secretary of the institute to also fix that copy.

To get over with it, I directly fixed the PDF version. As there was still this LaTeX non-reproducibility, I again combined the PDF files as I did before. Then I sent around the new file to everyone. The institute secretary raised a concern about the legality of just patching the printed document. As they also did that at the university library, I just told her exactly that and the topic was fortunately done with. However, I had a typo in one of the reviewer's names and she asked whether I wanted to fix that while we were at it. So I also fixed that, and before I could notify the university library, they already replied. So I told them about this change, which they agreed to also do. At the end of that day I was again in the hopes that finally everything was done and all I had to do was wait.

Around noon on 2021-01-07 I got a notification by the university library that my thesis was now published electronically on the website. They would immediately send a notification to the dean's office. Therefore I have refrained from follow-up e-mails for a while.

And on 2021-01-15 the certificate has finally arrived via mail.

I just don't understand why this is so complicated. I would expect that I hand in the three additional copies at the dean's office. They would know about the formal requirements and directly verify the copies on the spot. There would not be a need for so many forms, rather the dean's office would handle this. I would receive my diploma shortly after the dean has signed it.

To illustrate the sheer number of steps needed, I've created a diagram with all the people involved.