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Medical student wins prestigious international award

David Carroll, winner of SPARC Innovator Award

A county Armagh medical student from Queen’s University Belfast has received a prestigious international innovation award for creating an online tool to boost knowledge and benefit society.

David Carroll, from Camlough, who is currently on placement at Daisy Hill Hospital, a Queen’s University teaching hospital in Newry, has received the SPARC Innovator Award for developing the Open Access Button, an online tool to improve access to expensive research documents.

The Open Access Button increases access for members of the public, students and academics to publicly funded academic documents which normally require payment to use, or have access restrictions.

David Carroll, winner of SPARC Innovator Award

David Carroll, winner of SPARC Innovator Award

The SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) Innovator Award, which has previously been won by Harvard University and the World Bank, recognises individuals, institutions, or groups that challenge the status quo in scholarly communication for the benefit of researchers, libraries, universities, and the public.

David developed the tool with a friend from London, said: “The Open Access Button connects users with freely accessible copies of the research articles they need, and tracks how often people are denied access to research because of cost barriers.

“If the Open Access Button helps users get access to research, they can then make progress with their work. If not, the data and stories collected by the Button will be used for advocacy to make progress to a system in which everyone can access academic research. In one year, the tool has tracked over 12,000 instances of users hitting pay walls, many with powerful stories of why those people needed access to the research publications.”

Congratulating David on his award, Professor Pascal McKeown, Director of the Centre for Medical Education at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “At Queen’s we are committed to providing high quality education that develops talented students with a willingness to explore new ideas, advance knowledge and change lives.

“David is clearly a student with outstanding passion, commitment, and a drive to succeed. The innovative online tool he has created will help to improve access to important publications and make a real and lasting difference to society.”

Medical Director for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Dr John Simpson, said: “As both Daisy Hill and Craigavon Area are Queen’s University Hospitals, we are fully committed to fostering the development of medical students and are absolutely delighted that one of our undergraduates has been recognised for this inspiring invention.

“Research and development is crucial to the provision of safe, high quality care and we are totally committed to ensuring continuous improvement so that patients in the Southern Trust get the very best treatments. Access to the latest academic studies is central to continuous improvement, so not only does the Open Access Button benefit students but it will also help all of us working in health and social care in ensuring that we are up to date with the latest developments.”

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