Re: The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2004 05:03:07 -0400

Stevan Harnad, Professor of Cognitive Science
Southampton University, UK

Dear All,

I ask gpgNet forum readers to note how frequently in Jan Velterop's mostly useful
and informative posting [See, ],
"Open Access" keeps being used interchangeably with "Open Access Publishing"
(the "golden" road to Open Access [OA]).

OA and OA Publishing are not the same, so no wonder that the arguments
for and against the one are not the same as the arguments for and against
the other.

There are indeed some unanswered questions about the sustainability of
the OA Publishing model -- which replaces the non-OA user-institution-end
cost-recovery model with either an author-institution-end cost-recovery
model or a subsidy model -- and these questions are in the process
of being tested by the new OA Journals that exist so far (about 1200,
or 5%). The answers are hence not yet known.

But meanwhile the "green" road to OA -- which is to provide OA to the
articles published in the remaining 22,800 non-OA journals (95%) through
author/institution self-archiving -- is already providing three times
as much OA today (about 15%) as the golden road is providing (about
5%). And, more important still, OA self-archiving has the immediate
power to scale up to 100% OA virtually overnight, without the need to
wait for the conversion of the remaining 22,800 non-OA journals to OA.

100% OA solves (completely!) the research access/impact problem; it does
not solve the journal pricing/affordability problem (but it does make
it a good deal less urgent and important!).

Until we clearly distinguish OA from OA publishing, and until we
clearly distinguish the research access/impact problem from the journal
pricing/affordability problem, there will be unrelenting confusion
about the nature, purpose and benefits of OA.

And until we realize that the green road of OA self-archiving is the
most direct, broadest, fastest, and surest road to immediate OA, we
will have neither 100% OA nor any prospect at all of 100% OA Publishing
(because the green road of OA self-archiving is *also* the fastest
and surest road to an eventual conversion to gold [OA Publishing] too,
if there is indeed ever to be one!).

    Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S.,
    Gingras, Y, Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E. (2004)
    The Access/Impact Problem and the Green and Gold Roads to Open
    Access. Serials Review 30.
        Shorter version:
    The green and the gold roads to Open Access. Nature Web Focus.

Now try re-reading Jan Velterop's posting to see which of the arguments and
uncertainties about "OA" are in fact just arguments
and uncertainties about OA Publishing (gold), which of the benefits
of OA Publishing are in fact the benefits of OA itself -- and how OA
self-archiving (green) fits into the otherwise far from complete picture.

The answer is not, I think, just to remind us that BioMed Central is now
offering to help with self-archiving too!

    "BioMed Central to offer OAI repository service"

All help is of course welcome, but what is needed today is also a clear
conceptual and strategic picture of OA, and a clear sense of how the
complementary gold and green strategies actually fit into it, and what
their respective functions and probabilities actualy are. This clarity
will not come from continuing to treat "OA" as if it were identical
with OA Publishing (gold), and as if the goal of OA were to solve
the journal pricing/affordability problem rather than the research
access/impact problem. OA Self-Archiving (green) must be fully and
clearly and *explicitly* integrated into the OA strategic picture. This
is not an *economic* matter but a *policy* matter -- for the providers
and funders of the research that provides the content of the journal
articles that this is all about!

Stevan Harnad
Moderator, American Scientist Open Access Forum

Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton, UK

20 September- 4 October 2004: gpgNet Forum on "Open Access to Scholarly Publications:
A Model for Enhanced Knowledge Management?" Co-hosted with the Open Society
Institute (OSI).

Read background paper to the discussion at
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Received on Wed Sep 29 2004 - 10:03:07 BST

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