Welcome to the next in our OA Ambassadors video series!


In this Q&A we speak to Jan Hennigs, who recently finished his PhD at Cranfield University, about his areas of interest, tips for young researchers and the importance of Open Access in his own experience. Watch the full interview below! 



Tell us about yourself – what are your areas of interest? What stage are you at in your career?

I have recently completed my PhD at Cranfield University, where I worked on the Nano Membrane Toilet, a waterless high-tech toilet for urban spaces without access to conventional sanitation solutions. I completed that in July and in January of next year I will start a job as head of research and development with a wastewater engineering firm in Germany.

I am interested in all sorts of research that could improve the sustainability of how we use, clean, and recycle our water resources. For example, there are some exciting new technologies for phosphorous recovery in development, and phosphorous is an increasingly scarce resource that is absolutely vital for food production.

I am also interested in making science more accessible, not just in the field of journal access but also for example, the language we use in scientific articles which is often so dense and convoluted, that it is really difficult and nearly impossible for a layperson to understand it. I think there are many traditions in academia that have outlived their purpose and I hope to shake things up a bit. 

Why do you think Open Access is important?

I believe that knowledge should be shared freely, especially if it was created using public funding. So I think that everyone who, through their taxes, pays for the research that a lot of academics do should be able to access this research. We can see right this year how incredibly fast the scientific community all over the world could produce vast amounts of knowledge about the Corona virus, and that never would have been possible if they hadn’t been able to share their research outcomes with each other openly and freely. I think because researchers and in private institutions as well could share their results freely and build on each other’s research results and only thus we could know what we already know now and I think without this open access to the knowledge and the scientific results we would be much worse off than we are now. And I think that holds true for all fields of scientific enquiry. When I start my job in January, I will no longer have access to the many journal subscriptions that my university had, and for a private company it’s just unfeasible to obtain them. So I will very heavily rely on open access literature for my future work.

What are you excited to do as an Open Access ambassador?

I think I look forward to keeping in touch with my peers in academia that I'm kind of leaving behind now and connecting them with my hopefully future peers in the more private research sector, and I will try and advocate for Open Access in the private sector as well. So obviously for a private firm, there are economic interests and trade secrets to consider, but I think there are ways to secure a patent and still share your research results freely and openly and I think I will try and advocate for that in the private sector.

Do you have a top research or Open Access tip for young researchers?

Definitely- I would say never be afraid to email the authors of papers, and if they don’t reply, keep emailing them. I have never been denied a request for a paper that I couldn't get otherwise or some background information, but sometimes it took a few emails to get a reply. And that's not because the person you're emailing doesn't want to reply it's just that academics are notoriously busy and therefore really bad at replying. So if there is an article that you really want to read but you can't get access to it, just email the author and see if you can get it this way and if there is an article that you found really interesting that you want to know more about, also email the author, always do that. Oftentimes authors are really excited to talk about their research so just email them.  


Click here for more information about our OA Ambassador program


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