Mining of Unprotected Student Theses from YAIR to Third Party Website

By: Rachel Jacobi  |  October 24, 2019

By Rachel Jacobi, News Editor

The Yeshiva Academic Institutional Repository (YAIR) is an initiative that was recently launched by the Yeshiva University Library with the intent to digitize a wide database of Yeshiva University written material. This digital database includes uploads of undergraduate student journals such as the YU Clarion, Kol Hamevaser, the Journal of Fine Arts, Journal of Abstracts, and other works produced by Yeshiva University schools and its general student populace.  

To further maintain its currency, the repository features a YAIR Self-Deposit, where students, faculty, and staff can “deposit research materials in any digital format, including: articles, monographs, theses and dissertations, working papers, technical reports, conference papers and presentations, datasets, software code, images, video, and other multimedia creations.” 

Included in the scholarly works and theses that are digitally available in the repository are 208 honors theses written by undergraduate Stern and Yeshiva College students. As part of the honors program, all honors students are required to design a research project, supervised and mentored by a faculty member. To ensure that these projects are only accessed by the YU community, they are hosted by YAIR through password protection, or are supposed to be. 

Two weeks ago, Chani Grossman, Stern College for Women alumnus, discovered that her honor thesis was mined from the repository and published on third party websites, without proper crediting to her name. 

This resulted from a lack of oversight by YAIR, as they failed to protect a group of uploaded honor theses. Unprotected works included the theses of both Stern and Yeshiva College honor students. These theses appeared on databases that commonly feature scholarly works, such as Semantic Scholar

However, YAIR took swift action when the issue was brought to their attention. Chani Grossman commented on Facebook that YAIR “not only immediately password protected [my thesis] when I emailed, they also contacted the outside academic database to have my paper removed.” While a Google search for a student thesis may result in the appearance of a direct link to Semantic Scholar, clicking on the link to visit the page indicates that the thesis has been taken down.

YAIR has also confirmed that all theses and works are now password protected.