Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The WTT20YA Syndrome

Within the last year I have had the opportunity to look at literature in the very different area: Medical science. That was not only exciting from the point of view of learning something new, but also from the point of view of accessibility to information.

Many medical scientific journals, such as for example Blood, allows free access for personal use to all content more than 12 months old, and this for a journal with an impact factor above 10! The European Journal of Haematology, which as an impact factor above 2.5 goes a step further, it makes all content freely available on the internet either as HTML or PDF, on Wiley Online Library. I wonder what impact this free availability of new information in an area has on innovation and usage of new ideas? Wiley Online allow you to easily download and insert figures in your power-point presentation. This makes it extremely easy to use the material in ones own presentations with proper acknowledgement of the source.

Maybe the chemical engineering  community and especially the process safety community should implement similar free access to information about process safety in order to advance our common aim: to make our process plants and their products safer both for the people working in the plants and for the communities in which the operate.

Today an engineer working in one of our plants can read the table of content of most engineering journals online, but getting a personal copy of an interesting article can be quite challenging. It may require using his own money to buy the copy online. It may require convincing his manager, that the article, of which he has only read the abstract is relevant and worth investing money in. This may of course require additional paperwork - not something most engineers operating plants really are looking for. In all this sums up to many barriers for using time - evening or weekend - to become more knowledgeable about things relevant for operating the plant. Free access to scientific literature within chemical engineering would help break down some of these barriers. Furthermore, it would allow high school students easier access to information for their science project with the likely side effect, that more of these students choose chemical engineering as a carrier path.

I remember the presence of the WTT20YA syndrome at the facility I worked in more than 20 years ago. It killed many idea from young new and energetic professional. Read more about the WTT20YA syndrome and how it prevents or slow down innovation at Sustainable Plant.