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Tea Leaf Center Updates
It’s another period of internal work for the Tea Leaf Center. We’ve been working on finalizing our strategic plan, revamping our website and applying for some start-up funding. We’ll launch the new website soon, and the strategic plan shortly after that. There are also other projects in the works – stay tuned!

The first meeting of the Tea Leaf Center’s Advisory Board is scheduled for November 8 – we’re excited to spend a day with some great minds… And busily working on all the documents we need to finalize before then. We’ll also add their bios and photos to the website soon after the first meeting.

Looking forward, we can now confirm that we will be offering our Professional Writing for Civil Society in Mae Sot in early December, and in Yangon in January. The course teaches skills like techniques of persuasive writing, turning interviews into narrative case studies, writing an executive summary, tailoring your argument to a specific target audience, and more. Get information here or email info@thetealeafcenter.org if you would like to apply. We will also launch a fundraiser to support scholarships for students to attend this course, so keep an eye out for that.
 

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Resources and Tools
This week is Open Access Week, so we’ll highlight here some resources and pieces about Open Access in research. This year’s theme is “Open for Whom?” – which of course dovetails perfectly with the Tea Leaf Center’s work.

What is “Open Access”?

Open Access – in the field of research and academics – means that you don’t need to pay to read academic articles in journals (still confused? Watch this video). This is important because, in many cases, academic research takes knowledge from communities while the communities or those who work with them cannot in turn access and learn from that knowledge.

Paywalls in academic research is a major obstacle for researchers outside academics wishing to read and incorporate academic work in their own research – and in promoting better dialogue between academics and practice. The idea of open access has grown more popular in recent years – from only just over 500 articles available ‘open access’ in 2001 to up to 45% of new research in 2019.

How do I get these free articles?

There are a number of sites who offer lists or browser extensions to find out when an article is available – some options are Unpaywall or Open Access Button (which will even request the article from authors if it’s not available online).
Open Access for Whom?

But as this year’s theme suggests, offering free academic articles isn’t enough to promote access to scientific knowledge. Some blogs on the topic this week are suggesting that researchers publish not only final results, but also research protocols, code, and data.

In addition, just because it’s available online doesn’t mean everyone can access it, or read and understand it. Many parts of the world still have low internet connectivity – these web design guidelines for low bandwith suggest how to make your website actually accessible in areas with low connectivity.

Overall, this conversation still appears limited to the academic audience – to questions of replicability and access to data for other academic uses. Let’s hope that the theme of “Open for Whom?” prompts some thinking about how to make knowledge truly accessible for all who might use it – civil society, journalists, policymakers and others. These issues were addressed in a blog post on the Open Access Week website – including the excellent point that:
Open Access can only promote equity “if we carefully and deliberately consider equity implications at every critical decision point—from what business models we choose to support, to how we build our technology, to how we design our governance bodies. Our choices need to include sustainability models that ensure everyone has the ability to fully participate in the scholarly conversation—and not be relegated to reading a conversation meant for someone else.”

-Nick Shokey, Open Access Week
Civil Society Research Outputs
Sisters in Islam, a Malaysian civil society organization, published a report called “Perceptions and Realities: The Public and Personal Rights of Muslim Women in Malaysia” to hear what Malaysian Muslim women have to say on their own behalf. The report is based on a survey of 675 Muslim women in Malaysia about their opinions on women’s rights and equality – in theory and in their day-to-day reality. Interesting findings include how notions of gender interact with religion, including the desire to “project the image of a ‘proper Muslim woman’”, and the differences in perceptions on rights and equality within the family and within society as a whole.

The Manushya Foundation and the Indigenous Women’s Network of Thailand (IWNT) launched a report based on community-led, participatory research on indigenous women’s human rights in Thailand. The report, “Raising Our Voices to Save Our Future”, addresses four key challenges for human rights for indigenous women in Thailand: access to citizenship, discrimination in access to healthcare, risks when defending their ancestral lands, and impact of tourism. The process of conducting the research, led by indigenous women human rights defenders, aims to support indigenous women to continue to document and engage in evidence-based advocacy.
 
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