Education prof named Brock’s first Open Access champion

Nicola Simmons believes research and scholarship should be accessible to society at large.

That was the motivation behind the creation of her Annotated Literature Database, a worldwide listing of research papers that explore dozens of topics within the field of education.

“It’s intended to be a point of entry for either students or faculty member scholars who are interested in research that pertains to higher education teaching and learning,” explains the assistant professor of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies in Education.

Simmons’ work to launch the database, as well as her publishing and blogging activities, have earned her the inaugural Brock University Award for Open Access.

The first-ever award recognizes a Brock community member who is a champion of freely sharing scholarship with audiences around the globe. The award competition was held in conjunction with International Open Access Week, Oct. 23 to 27.

“The breadth of Nicola’s dedication to open access made her a standout,” says Elizabeth Yates, Liaison/Scholarly Communication Librarian, who helped adjudicate the award.

“Not only is she actively publishing and reviewing for open access journals, but she is also openly engaging with the teaching and learning community via scholarly blogs and websites.”

The award is part of the James A. Gibson Library’s efforts to raise awareness about the importance of making scholarly digital content free and widely accessible to all in society.

Until recently, published research had only been available to institutions or individuals who could afford to pay costly fees to access subscription journals.

“I have a belief that knowledge should be made freely available,” says Simmons. “If we hide our research and scholarship behind these subscription-only walls, then I’m not sure the work always reaches the people who will best implement it.

“The work we produce should be as widely available as possible to as many people as possible.”

Simmons strives to instill these open access values and procedures among her students.

“I’ve been thrilled to engage our graduate students in writing those annotations,” she says of the Annotated Literature Database. “I either do it with the students as interns or embed it as an assignment in the courses when the course that I’m teaching is appropriate for that.”

She also encourages her students to publish book reviews and articles in open access journals.

“One of my students was amazed at how many people had read the piece that we’d done. She told me it gave her the confidence to try for other publications, so that was really nice.”

Simmons also led a group that gathered data about teaching and learning centres across the country, which culminated in the Canadian Centres Database.

The movement to implement open access publishing policies and practices has been gaining steam across the globe.

The Library provides a number of supports for researchers and scholars as they pursue open access publishing including an Open Access Publishing Fund to help researchers defray costs; the Brock Digital Repository, a freely accessible archive of Brock scholarship; and an Open Access information section on the Library’s website.

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