It is not uncommon for academic journals to have 12, or even 24, month embargo on electronic material. But I was a bit taken back when I learned today that Finnish PhD candidates could also be forced to sign a 12 month embargo -- from their own universities!
It works along the following lines. It is not terribly hard to get accepted into PhD programs in Finnish universities. To balance things out, it is terribly hard to obtain decent funding, especially if one's field of study does not happen to coincide with any major research group, or if it happens to be anything in the Humanities. Trusts and other sources of funding are numerous enough, but they take applications in all over the year. Occasionally, students fall from their previous funding with a few months gap until the next one kicks in.
Such an unfortunate case was confirmed to happen to me very recently. A gap between funding options will last at least for three months, beginning from December 2010 and ending in February 2011. During that time period I could be applicable for the standard non-employment benefits -- or I could be not. I swear I'm not making any of this up!
Apparently, there exists a shadowy committee, located in some street in Helsinki beginning with the letter h (cannot remember). It assesses PhD candidates sharing my situation on individual basis, and decides whether non-employment benefits can be received without signing the embargo. I chatted with two clerks today concerning the committee, but none of them could shed any light on the principles used in deciding this or that. In the worst case, a PhD candidate is forced to sign the embargo. Apparently, it dictates something along the lines of 'the candidate cannot study for PhD degree in any way whatsoever in the university of X for 12 months', in an effort to ensure that the candidate is available for labour market should a position come open. But the clerks could not tell me much about the embargo, either, so I'm really just guessing.
It is more amusing than threatening, to tell the truth, but raises the serious question of why on Earth do I even want to write my dissertation in Finland.
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