Brock University’s first Award for Open Access


Ontario, CA, November 7, 2017From October 23 to the 29, Brock took part in recognizing Open Access Week, which was created to promote free public access to scholarly research. Through the Library and Learning Commons, display cases featured ‘open access’ resources, and the library also created a Fact or Fiction Prize Wheel and hosted a live stream of Michael Geist (Canada Research Chair, University of Ottawa) giving a talk about copyright, open access, and educational resources. Most notably, however, was the presentation of Brock’s first ever Award for Open Access.

The award, “recognizes members of the Brock community who are champions of open access, demonstrating strong commitment to expanding the reach of Brock research by freely sharing their scholarship with audiences around the globe.” It is a $2500 grant to be awarded to any member of the Brock community — including staff, faculty, librarians and students — who meet at least one of several qualifications regarding publishing open access research or supporting its publication in some way.

This year’s recipient of the award was Dr. Nicola Simmons, an associate professor in the Department of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies in Education. She was recognized for her work in developing the Annotated Literature Database, a website dedicated to open access of key literature of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, a special interest group of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

“There are challenges with the way scholars have presented their knowledge — it tends to be in peer-reviewed subscription journals, many of which are not known to students and faculty scholars new to the field. This makes it difficult to have a point of entry for research investigations,” said Simmons.

“I was working with faculty colleagues doing Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and saw first hand the challenges they, as well as graduate students, had finding a starting point in unfamiliar literature. I wanted it to be open access so it was freely available to anyone who might find it useful,” Simmons explained. “To address this issue, with the help of Brock graduate students I created a website of key SoTL literature for those who wish to improve their practice or conduct research pertaining to these topics. Each entry comprises a topic heading, a brief overview of the topic, a short list of annotated key literature, and highlights ongoing debates in the literature.”

Simmons was honoured to receive the award:

“I’m honoured and also surprised. I have to admit that it has refocused me on Open Access. It has always been something important to me — the open sharing of scholarship – but this award has prompted me to start thinking about additional ways to support students in this area.”

Simmons has always been passionate about the accessibility of scholarly research.

“I don’t want students to lose access – sometimes to their own work – as soon as they no longer have access through the university library,” said Simmons. “And, I want scholars to be able to share their work widely – not just to other scholars, but also to the wider public, to government officials, etcetera – to wherever it might have the greatest impact and possibility of changing practice.”

Simmons is passionate about sharing her value of open access research with those she teaches. She values working with students, involving them in research as well as making it openly accessible. Simmons also commented that she would love to see a student win the award in future years.

Simmons has been keeping herself busy with the Annotated Literature Database. She’s hoping to continue revising it and making it more efficient for users by adding additional tags to each article.

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