Mission Myanmar

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The TU Delft has embraced openness as a core value. But what does it mean to be ‘open’ as a university? We can display openness in the way we share information, in the way we use information, even in the way we use space. On May 14, Just de Leeuwe and Michiel de Jong from the TU Library hosted a workshop about sharing information. Our audience? A delegation from Myanmar, consisting of professors, assistant professors and PhD students in the field of hydrology. They were visiting Delft as part of the TU Global initiative, hosted by the TU Delft Valorisation Centre.

Limited access to informationhr_mkx7253web

Our visitors presented us with an interesting problem: their access to information is limited. In the current environment of scientific publishing, access to the majority of publications goes through subscriptions. This is something that TU Delft researchers do not usually think about, because the TU Delft has subscriptions to most of the high impact peer-reviewed scientific journals. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case for universities in Myanmar. The result? Scientific progress in Myanmar is significantly.Coming into this workshop, Just and I, Michiel de Jong,  had one important mission: to help our guests get access to scientific publications in a way that doesn’t involve subscription costs. And that is where openness comes into play. These days, more and more researchers are sharing their work on open platforms. These open access publications are free to access for anyone, wherever you are. So our job was to show our guests how to find these open access publications.

We need high quality teaching materials, but it is hard for us to find it

While the researchers visit The Netherlands, they are welcome to download and print as many papers as possible. This is of course not a very sustainable method for gathering information, so we wanted to give them a few tips and tricks to help them find open access publications that they can also find without any TU Delft subscriptions, when they are back home. One of these is Unpaywall. This is a browser extension that, when you try to access a publication from for example Google Scholar, searches the web for the open access variant of the publication and forwards you to it if it is available open access. This has quite the impact on the ability to find open access articles, since there are currently over 18 million links to open access articles.

myanmar-guests

The Myanmar delegation installing the Unpaywall extension in their browsers.  “picture” by Just de Leeuwe is licensed under CC BY 4.0

We also showed them Arxiv, the largest repository for pre-print publications. These are non-peer reviewed papers that are all open access. The downside is that non-peer reviewed scientific work is considered to be of inferior quality compared to the alternative. We also showed OpenAIRE, ScienceOpen and the DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) as sources of open access information. Finally, we referred the Myanmare researchers to Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER), open access educative publications such as textbooks, videos and online courses.

The benefits of Open Science

There is only so much you can do in a ninety minute workshop of course. We do feel we were able to give them insights into finding open access information. The Myanmar researchers were very pleased with the Unpaywall tool as an easy fix for finding open materials when searching the web. As the director of education told us, “We need high quality teaching materials, but it is hard for us to find it”.

For us, it was very informative to meet people at this end of the scientific information spectrum. We will keep in touch with them to train them in finding and adopting open educational resources. We feel inspired to keep spreading the practices of open access publishing to our researchers, because we have seen a first-hand example of people who benefit from openly available information.


More information on Open Access: in the Library Online Magazine and the Library website.

Just de Leeuwe is Copyright and Publishing Advisor at TU Delft Library, team Research Support J.deLeeuwe@tudelft.nl
Michiel de Jong is Open Science and Open Education Specialist at the TU Delft Library M.deJong-1@tudelft.nl
Author: Michiel de Jong, featured on the roof of the Library
Photography: Marcel Krijger – marcel@marcelkrijger.nl
Publication date: July 2018
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