The Higher Education Policy Institute produces analytical blue books and more polemical yellow books. The latter are particularly designed to stimulate debate. The recent letter from Michael Taylor (“Licence absurdity”, Letters, 9 April) suggests that no yellow book has done that as successfully as the newest one: Open Access: Is a National Licence the Answer?
We welcome Taylor’s powerful critique, but his attack is flawed. First, it ignores the tentative spirit in which the proposal for a national licence was made. Our report says, “On close reflection, some of the issues raised could prove to be so complex that it is not seen as a proposal to take forward.”
Second, it is confined to criticism when the tricky bit of policymaking is proposing practical alternatives to the status quo, which the Hepi paper does but Taylor’s letter does not.
Third, it ignores the fact that we are searching for ways to improve access to previously published research for people such as teachers, health workers and policymakers. Compared with them, Taylor already has excellent access. His privileged vantage point encourages a black-and-white stance that pits pure open access against the status quo with nothing much in between. Yet a national licence has the potential to complement rather than squash other initiatives.
It is a pity that, as an advocate of open publishing, Taylor should end his letter by calling for a paper to be withdrawn not because it is badly argued or inaccurate but simply because he does not like its conclusions. For the avoidance of doubt, the Hepi paper will remain open for all to see at no charge on our website. Indeed, it is more accessible than some of Taylor’s own published work.
Higher Education Policy Institute