Trying to convince people – students, parents, colleagues – that their projects, assignments – creations if you will, should be ‘open access’ is not always an easy sell.

Open access in science should be a no brainer. The foundation of the scientific process depends on the sharing and continued building of knowledge. Newton made the idea of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ immortal. [He was not the first to say it.] The concept refers to the human capacity to build on previous knowledge. Newton claimed he was able to expand our knowledge of science and math because he was using previous knowledge and ideas to ‘see’ farther into scientific principles. So be it, he was still a genius.

The fact remains that science is meant to be reproducible. It is how claims are substantiated, falsehoods identified and perceptions changed. It embodies the idea of being critically minded. Scientists are a stubborn, hard headed lot and take alot of convincing. You need facts, backed up by evidence, if you want to convince a scientist of anything.

Whats the point?

Well, Biomed Central is an open access pulisher on the web. The research is free to be perused and critiqued by other scientists. Technology has made this incredibly easy. Scientists are geeks at heart.

Please feel free to watch the video below to receive an explanation of why open access science is so important to the continuation of science and the general well being of society. I could drone on about issues ad infinitum, the only one I want to mention deals with proprietary ownership of data.

When large multinational companies do research, its often closed and inaccessible. It can be very difficult to accurately criticize a study on a drug trial when the company involved denies access to the wider scientific community. There is a conflict of interest between the business, money making side and the scientific development side. Its hard to generate income or share price when you allow free access to information.

However, only through the open access of information can drug studies be accurately critiqued. Only thorough open access can society have faith in the food they eat, the drugs they take, the effects of climate change or the depletion of the ozone layer.

How does this relate to school?

As role models we need to emulate open access behaviour. The process of creating open access blogs, wikis – heck classes – teaches the importance of collaboration, sharing and ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’.

There are certainly issues, complexities that may discourage teachers moving forward. Internet security, safety etc etc. I’ve heard them all. The fact is we teach kids to look both ways before they cross the street. Why should we do any differently in our teaching? Expecting our students to check their sources, communicate respectfully and browse the internet carefully should be part of the process. Censoring the process teaches nothing.

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