3.1 Open Access Publishing

Activity 10: What colour is Open Access?

After you’ve read Gold or green: which is the best shade of open access? share your thoughts on whether you favour gold or green open access publishing below.

Once you’ve finished, head on back to section 3.1.

As an individual without institutional linkage (aside from alumnus status at OU for 3 years) I would clearly favour the Gold model. The descriptions of Green suggest institutional interest is predominant with emphasis on repositories, embargo periods, peer review etc with immediate access only for those with institutional credentials. Also, abstracts rarely give an adequate overview of the value of an article - but for an individual it is impractical and unaffordable to have to pay to find out! There would be some equity in the Green model if revenues went to authors - their income increasing with popularity. However, I suspect in reality that revenues would be retained by the publishers/repositories.
A consequence of Gold is that the burden of publishing costs moves from Universities (through journal subscriptions) to research funders (who would have to include publishing costs if they required open access publication). This could of course have a consequence of reduced funding for actual research if absolute levels of funding are limited.

While the ‘Gold’ model does appear to be ideal as it enables immediate open access, while (presumably) maintaining high publishing standards, I see some limitations. First, the costs may be prohibitive especially for developing country researchers (see a recent paper by colleagues Laura Czerniewicz and Sarah Goodier from the University of Cape Town) and the likelihood is that the money to be found will need to come from somewhere else - research budget, institution, library budget (although in some cases there are waivers for certain developing countries). Another problem area is that this could (and in some cases has) led to unscrupulous practices where ‘open access’ journals will publish anything if the author pays regardless of quality and seemingly circumventing the peer review process (see this article that uncovered a scam). The ‘Gold’ option also means that in some cases an institution will ‘double pay’ in that they may pay for an article to be released as open access in a subscription-based journal (known as a hybrid journal) but also pay subscriptions for that journal in any case.

So continuing motivation and support for green access would seem to be important especially for developing countries while models for sustainability for both publishers and institutions are explored. Probably both models will need to co-exist depending on the field or discipline area.

I like the idea of green open access as a compromise among different perspectives.

When I’m working with collaborators and discussing where and how to publish, the impact factor of the journal matters a lot. (I may not like that fact…but I do have to deal with it.) Having the option to self-archive, and knowing enough about the copyright terms of important journals to be able to preserve that option to self-archive, is really valuable. Researchers are increasingly inclined to stick their necks out and decide to only publish open access, which is awesome, but many have to choose between their commitment to open access and their desire to build a career and a CV that will support that. I like being able to say “Okay, let’s publish in that prestigious [closed] journal, but let’s also release the data set, and let’s deposit the paper in [appropriate repository] according to [prestigious journal]'s terms and conditions.”

Embargo periods, while frustrating, offer another way to persuade a collaborator who might be nervous about releasing their work openly. My thesis advisor was amenable to letting me release my thesis openly as long as I kept it under embargo for a year, which was a good compromise.

edited to add: Green open access may also provide better data longevity – an institutional or field-specific repository may be less subject to winds of change that might cause gold access sources to open and close over time. Openness without sustainability doesn’t help anyone in the long term.

I have reservations about Gold, though I can see the attraction of Gold for those who are not affiliated to a particular institution (and don’t have an institutional repository to feed). The Gold route could be abused by some journals publishing sub-standard papers because authors are willing to pay for open access (even if peer reviews indicate the papers should be rejected). Additionally, a country’s international competitiveness could be affected by adopting the Gold method as other countries would have access to everything they publish without adopting similar practices themselves. The Green route isn’t perfect by any means, and finding a workable solution to the costs involved in implementing it, alongside national licencing, would be desirable.

Having thought about Green and Gold, my thinking turns to as yet unspecified alternatives. certainly as an individual I am used to inventing new practices, although sometimes reinventing wheels.
I came across this clear guide which begins to expand the colours and options. Such is the nature of research and future conditions, it seems useful to come up with easily responsive ideas for changing circumstances, especially for a researcher who works outside and occasionally with institutions - there will be no one size fits all.
Green, Blue, Yellow, White & Gold
A brief guide to the open access rainbow.

Paying to publish (Gold) open access just adds to the cost of researchers having their work published. I firmly believe that Green open access makes more sense but the repositories should not only be institutional, maybe also national or funder supported, so that all funded research is freely available. I also do not think that there should be any time period where the research is not available.

I enjoyed reading the article and the comments in the discussion thread; it’s good to get ‘the lie of the land’. However, at this stage, and as a ‘recreational researcher’, I don’t feel that I’m sufficiently qualified/knowledgeable to venture much of an opinion on the topic. Naturally, any costs that I might incur are always going to be a big consideration (or barrier).