Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Categories Beyond Gold and Green #OpenAccess


Reading Time: 3 minutes

In case you don’t know, we’re reading Peter Suber’s book Open Access this week as part of #OpenLearning17 cMOOC week 7 and focusing mainly on chapter one for now. I’m co-facilitating the week w the wonderful Sue Erickson and there are a variety of activities throughout the week.

(updates to the book can be found here)

So I am a huuuuuge fan of open access from both an altruistic standpoint (I think all scholars should have equal access to published work) and a selfish standpoint (I want people to be able to read and cite my work). It also angers me that authors, editors, reviewers give free labor to publishers, then publishers sell it back to us through our libraries at very high subscription rates. Suber’s chapter one does a great job of outlining the justification for open access for scholars, and how, since we don’t make money out of our peer-reviewed scholarship anyway we have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by going OA.

I am constantly frustrated by people who make assumptions about OA being lower quality and have no idea, to this day, how this irrational belief can be changed. Rationality doesn’t work for confirmation bias.

Anyway. My questions here relate to the usage of the terms gold and green OA (definitions by Suber here). I think the two terms have sub-categories and am wondering what the concise terminologies for those are.

Briefly: gold OA is OA granted by a journal so that if you’re on the journal website, you click the article, and it’s available to you for free (usually also w/o password or such). But within that category, there are the following sub-categories of gold OA (also different business models, but I am looking at it from an author perspective here regardless of underlying business model)

  1. A journal that is entirely OA and which doesn’t charge authors fees
  2. A journal that is entirely OA but which charges authors fees (even if those fees get waived for “member” institutions, this discriminates against people who aren’t affiliated or not affiliated w particular institutions).
  3. A journal that is NOT OA, but which allows authors to pay APCs (Article Processing Fees) in order to make their own article OA (this is usually not really paid by authors themselves but via the funders of their research). I have a problem with this model, and judging from Twitter yday, other people do, too. Because it basically rewards subscription-based journals for making our unpaid work open access. I understand why someone would be want to do it – to choose a prestigious journal better for their career but still publish OA. I just don’t understand why we tolerate this model. Even when there are waivers or reduced for developing countries (good, but not enough imho – because what about unaffiliated authors in developed countries?)

Green OA is based on archiving copies of an article personal or institutional repositories or such. But there are sub-categories of that:

  1. Immediate or after a time embargo?
  2. Using the reviewed manuscript or an earlier version?
  3. On a personal repository (harder for Google and others to find) or institutional repository or something like Academia or Research gate (easier for people and Google to find)

In the past, I have published with subscription journals that allow immediate self-archiving on personal repository and after an embargo period, the option to use institutional repositories.

Sherpa Romeo is a great resource for learning about open access policies of subscription journals:

Also check out Sparca Open’s
useful resource for evaluation “how open is it?”

Again, check out the activities and resources for #OpenLearning17 cMOOC week 7


  1. > Immediate or after a time embargo?

    To be eligible for our national (UK) REF process – you have to notify the repository and then deposit a copy within (I think) 90 days of acceptance.

    Explained in detail here:

    • But isn’t the embargo period decided by the journal? This forces UK researchers to then do Gold OA (paying most subscription based journals) rather than Green (for some journals that don’t allow immediate green)

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