Hate the sin, not the sinner

April 23, 2015

It’s good to see Nick Hillman of the Higher Education Policy Institute responding to my letter (“It’s not pure open access or bust”, Letters, 16 April). But it’s a shame that his response is so devoid of actual argument in defence of the Ukip Licence proposal. I can only assume that’s because he realises it’s indefensible.

Hillman complains that while the Hepi paper proposes practical alternatives to the status quo, my letter does not. That is because we are not in a status quo. The world is transitioning to open access, and doing it fast. Almost every week seems to bring an announcement of a new open access policy: sometimes from a university or a research funder, sometimes from a whole country. What is needed to attain the fully open access world that we will all benefit from is simply to continue along this trajectory, not to get sidetracked by retrogressive proposals such as the Ukip one. Talk of a national licence “complementing rather than squashing” alternatives is either mendacious or, more optimistically, naive – as clearly shown by Stephen Curry’s careful and dispassionate analysis of the Ukip proposal on the Occam’s Typewriter blog.

Finally, it seems odd that Hillman’s response would end on an ad hominem note, criticising me for my own past before open access. As I have previously noted in The Guardian: “I know, I know. It’s an easy trap to fall into – I’ve done it myself. To my shame, several of my own early papers, and even a recent one, are behind paywalls. I’m not speaking as a righteous man to sinners, but as a sinner who has repented.” Happily, although some of my early papers were indeed allowed to go behind paywalls, Hillman can read them anyway – as indeed can anyone else, British national or not – at www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/pubs/

Michael P. Taylor
Research associate, School of Earth Sciences
University of Bristol

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