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Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies News

Democratizing Readership of Research on Teaching and Learning Engineering

October 21st, 2019

Oct. 21-27, 2019, is International Open Access Week. This is part of a series — written by Purdue faculty — that demonstrates the benefits of open access scholarly publishing. For the entire series, visit http://blogs.lib.purdue.edu/news/category/oaweek19/.


by Monica Cardella and Senay Purzer, School of Engineering Education, Purdue University

Monica Cardella, Professor; Director, INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering
Monica Cardella, Professor; Director, INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering

As editors, we have had countless conversations with prospective authors and other colleagues about the model used for the Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (J-PEER): an online, open access, common good journal. Free for readers to access articles, free for authors to publish their work. What? Free for readers and free for authors? How is that possible?

It’s possible because of the commitment of the University and the University Press—it is not possible to maintain a reputable journal without any costs, but through the commitment of Purdue’s School of Engineering Education, Purdue University Press, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies, authors and readers are not limited in their ability to access and publish papers.

Even more important, however, is the question of why.

Open access journals reach those readers who most benefit from the research in those journals: J-PEER disseminates research findings from studies of engineering learning in pre-college settings. This includes studies of how children learn engineering in elementary school classrooms, how teachers learn to teach engineering, how people learn engineering in museums and through “maker” activities. Some studies focus on broadening participation in engineering; others focus on how we measure or assess what children or teachers have learned.

While many of our readers are other researchers who learn from the articles we have published in order to advance their own research, the fact that J-PEER is an online, open access journal means that teachers, museum exhibit designers, afterschool program managers, parents, superintendents, and the general public have access to this research. For us—as not only journal editors, but also as researchers—this resonates with a core commitment of our research—that it not only benefits the research community, but also has the potential to impact practice.

Senay Purzer, Associate Professor; Director, Assessment Research at the INSPIRE Institute for Pre-College Engineering Research
Senay Purzer, Associate Professor; Director, Assessment Research at the INSPIRE Institute for Pre-College Engineering Research

Open access journals help accelerate the growth of our field. For us as scholars in the field of pre-college engineering education research, we also believe that the open access model supports our growing field. The journal started eight years ago in 2011, when the field of pre-college engineering education research was still “young” and emerging. At the time we were members of the original editorial board, under the leadership of the founding editor, Johannes Strobel. We joined the editorial board for the same reason he started the journal: a way to support the growth of this field. The hope was we could provide a venue for scholars to publish their work and a way for people to quickly learn about other work underway in this interdisciplinary, emerging area.

Open access journals foster global impact of research. Research in engineering education tends to concentrate on specific regions of the world, where universities can afford to fund robust databases and high invoices from journal publishers. J-PEER is able to reach a wide global readership that would not have been possible without open access. With this ability, OA democratizes readership and globally inclusive access for scholars.

Readership activity map for J-PEER displaying the journal’s international use.

Open access can help debunk “false” information. People in their everyday life communicate through social media and share with each other information found on the Internet. Often challenging false information can be a problem when access to “real,” academic work is only available to scholars. With open access, anyone can freely and easily disseminate their work.

Open access is a defense against phishing journals. The funding structures of journals that charge authors per page, and the pressures of the tenure and promotion process, have created a vacuum resulting in myriad phishing journals. The recent increase of fake journals is especially confusing for new scholars and graduate students, who are under great pressure to publish their research. Open access is a defense against such exploitation.

For some, a journal that is freely and openly available to the public may generate concern for quality and respect. Yet it is a journal’s review process and the editorial board that matters the most. For us, the choice between an open access vs. a traditional journal was easy. Open access is the future of a democratized readership of research.


Information about other 2019 Open Access Week activities at Purdue is available at http://blogs.lib.purdue.edu/news/2019/09/26/oa-week19/.

Learn more about Purdue’s Open Access resources, including Purdue e-Pubs, Purdue’s open access digital repository, at www.lib.purdue.edu/openaccess.