Liam talks about open access and the student experience.

Written by on October 24, 2014

Open access and the student experience

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. – Jimmy Whales, founder of Wikipedia

Open access means to have free online access to scholarly research and then have the right to use that research as you need it. It is a movement that is celebrated at Kennedy Library every year and has inspired the library to develop programs like Open Access to Textbooks for Students (OATS).

Liam Kirsh, computer science sophomore, spoke about the open access movement as it relates to students in his talk “Generation Open: Open Access and the Student Experience” on October 21.


There are a few problems with higher education Liam sees right now that relate to the open access movement:

  • Higher education is expensive: We all know about the high cost of attending college. From the tuition fees to the high living costs to expensive textbooks, higher education comes with a huge price tag. One fee that relates to this movement is paying for access to research and textbooks. By making higher education so expensive, it provides a huge barrier to a lot of people in the world.
  • Higher education is a privilege: Not everyone has access to higher education. To continue with higher education is a privilege that only few people in the world have the opportunity to complete. For example, 71% of people in the U.S. do not have a bachelor’s degree, Liam said.
  • Higher education is localized: By this, Liam means that while people in countries like the United States have access to higher education, people in developing countries typically do not because of where they live. This limits their access to information, research and education that some people can easily get simply because of where they live.

“I’m disappointed with lack of awareness for these issues,” said Liam. I’ve noticed the lack of awareness from students as well. (In fact, the only reason why I know about open access is because I work in the library).


With the enormity of problems listed above, it might seem like there is nothing that we as students can do to help the open access movement along. However, Liam tells us a few little changes that we can make that will have a big effect:

  • License your own work under Creative Commons (CC), which lets you share your work for free with the rest of the world. An important aspect of CC is the requirement of the user to attribute your work to you. CC does not mean that someone can Creative Commons licenseplagiarize your work. There are a few different requirements of the person using you CC  work that you can set. For example, if you set your CC work to non-commercial, people can only use your work for non-commercial purposes.
  • Sign a petition to support open access.
  • Encourage your professors to use articles/textbooks/other scholarly works licensed under CC.
  • Make good use of the Digital Commons @ Cal Poly, which makes senior project research readily available.
  • Use and promote websites, like Boundless, that make CC textbooks available online for free.
  • Attend meetings for the Free Culture Club here at Cal Poly.

By taking these small steps together, we can have a big effect.

Read more on liam kirsh, open access week, and open access week 2014.