Re: The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Steve Hitchcock <>
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 2004 18:10:47 +0100

The concept of overlay journals predates the OA framework we have now, and
was intended to overlay peer review on subject archives such as arXiv (1996) (1999)

There have been some notable overlay journals, but not many, and there is
no single model since the more successful journals tended to add
traditional journal features (formatting, presentation, etc.). Nor do they
have to be an overlay on subject archives; these virtual journals could now
be overlaid on distributed institutional archives just as well.

As Stevan notes, originally an overlay journal was seen as an efficient,
low cost way of implementing free online journals. But squeezed between the
green and gold OA models, the role of an overlay journal is currently
questionable. With these models authors can provide OA for their articles
and at the same time take advantage of the full range of journal services.

This may not last, and in time overlay journals might prove an economic
alternative if journals have to downsize to peer review services. But
that's for the future, not for now. At the moment authors are provided for
like never before.

Steve Hitchcock
IAM Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3256 Fax: +44 (0)23 8059 2865

At 15:57 07/10/04 +0100, Stevan Harnad wrote:
>Brian Simboli's points, below, have already been discussed many times
>in this Forum, but for those for whom the token just might at last drop
>this time, I will try again, from a slightly different angle:
>On Thu, 7 Oct 2004, Brian Simboli wrote:
> > I think the overlay journal concept is much more within practical reach
> > than people realize. Why is there this unspoken assumption that green is
> > any more practicable than, say, the overlay concept?
> > Witness:
>Overlay journals such as the journal above are merely an efficient new way
>of implementing conventional journals online. The idea is that instead
>of submitting your manuscript to the journal's website, you deposit
>it on your own website and just send the journal the URL. The editor
>looks it over, and if it is suitable for refereeing, sends the referees
>the URL. If it successfully passes peer review (the usual way), it is
>accepted and published -- which in this case merely means adding the
>journals "accepted, peer-reviewed, published" certification tag to the
>final accepted, revised, peer-reviewed postprint.
>Now this overlay method has nothing to do with whether or not the journal
>is an Open Access (OA, gold) journal. A Toll Access (TA) journal could
>implement peer-review this way too, and some of the American Physical
>Society (APS, green) journals have been doing this, though they also
>generate an APS-style edited PDF at the end, which is also archived
>in the APS archives, and printed as the print edition.
>But overlay journals have nothing in principle to do with OA -- though
>of the few that exist, most are OA journals (gold).
>And self-archiving (green) is about providing OA to the articles
>published in the 95% of journals that are TA. That means self-archiving
>the peer-reviewed postprints, not just the unrefereed preprints. For the
>postprints, there is nothing for a journal to "overlay" on -- or rather,
>the "overlay" is already there, in the form of the metadata tag naming
>the journal in which the article was published.
>So Brian Simboli's cavalier suggestion that "overlay journals" are more within
>reach than (green) self-archiving is merely another one of those "let them eat
>cake" suggestions to researchers (hungry for access/impact), and in fact
>a variant on "Waiting for Gold":
>(The concept of "overlay journals" should not be confused with other
>hypothetical or barely tested proposals, such as replacing in-advance
>peer review with post-hoc opinion-polling, or with "multiple peer
>review" of the same article by many journals [a particularly profligate
>and unrealistic suggestion, considering how hard it is and how long it
>takes to get even one qualified expert to referee a paper even once!],
>or other post-hoc performance indicators such as "Faculty of 1000",
>citations, or commentaries, which are really supplements to peer review
>rather than substitutes for it.)
> > Why not devote precious dollars to this? Or the brunt of the dollars?
>Why not devote no dollars, and merely self-archive the articles
>that are already published in the journals that already exist? Why
>is counterfactual armchair speculation more gratifying than concrete,
>within-reach action? (But this question should of course be directed
>to the content-providers themselves, the researchers, who are also
>the beneficiaries of OA, not just at the well-meaning but entirely
>misguided librarians who are trying to guide them!)
> > Also, I am told that has been willing to expand its subject
> > coverage. Why not use that as a repository for final, refereed versions
> > articles?
>Arxiv happens to be a central OAI-compliant OA archive. There are also
>many other distributed institutional OAI-compliant OA archives. All
>of them are open to all embryological stages of research papers, from
>the unrefereed preprint to the per-reviewed postprint and beyond. It is
>journals that provide the dynamic, interactive, answerable peer-review
>service in between whose outcome (when successful) is then certified by
>the journal's name -- its quality-control tag and its track-record.
>In other words, neither ArXiv nor any of the other OA Archives is or has
>ever been
>just for unrefereed preprints, waiting for "overlay journals." They are, and
>always have been, for both preprints and postprints, and OA in particular
>-- whose
>objective is toll-free online access to the full-texts of all 2.5 million
>published yearly in the world's 24,000 peer-reviewed journals -- is concerned
>first and foremost with Open Access to the peer-reviewed, published
>drafts, not to
>the unrefereed preprints.
>Now Brian for some reason does not like the green road -- of
>self-archiving one's final, refereed articles -- if it is done in
>an institutional OAI archive; there he recommends "overlay journals"
>instead. But he *does* like the green road -- of self-archiving one's
>final, referees articles -- if it is done in a central OAI archive
>like ArXiv.
>Brian gives no reason for this piece of whimsy, but no matter, let us
>take him at his word: He is *for* the green road if it is central, only
>against it if it is institutional. (I'm guessing it's because he sees the
>latter as competing for library funds and time, and he'd rather see all
>that off-loaded somewhere else.)
>Either way, Brian is in contradiction with himself: He is both for and against
>green. The rest (in the words of the wag) is just haggling over the price.
>A much more reflective and informed case has been made for in favour of
>distributed, institution-based green self-archiving -- and was announced
>in this Forum a few days ago:
> Delivery, Management and Access Model for E-prints and Open
> Access Journals within Further and Higher Education. Alma Swan,
> Paul Needham, Steve Probets, Adrienne Muir, Ann O'Brien,
> Charles Oppenheim, Rachel Hardy, and Fytton Rowland (2004).
> > I'm not asking hypothetical questions. I think the questions are quite
> > important for a manager at something less than a Harvard or MIT, whose
> > dollars, and staff time, are already stretched. I know where I'd put the
> > emphasis.
>Offloading institutional self-archiving onto remote central archives
>(always still green, if it's self-archiving at all) is fine in the few
>fields where the central archives (like Arxiv, CogPrints, and PubMed
>Central) exist, and there is someone else ready to foot all the centralised
>cost, but it is futile where they central archives do not exist and/or no one
>wants to foot all of the cost and responsibility (which is in most
>fields). More important, it is useless merely to provide an archive, be
>it central or institutional. The real challenge is getting the archive
>filled. And in this, institutional archives have a great advantage
>because they share with their own institutional authors the benefits
>of maximizing access and impact to their institutional research output
>(and they share also the costs of *not* maximizing it, when other,
>competing institutions do).
>Institutions, in other words, are in the position and have a vested
>interest in mandating, monitoring and maximizing the usage and impact
>of their own research output (OA), across all of their institutional
>departments: Central archives and disciplines have no such interest,
>or means.
>Research-funders too have the interest and means to mandate OA
>provision by their fundees, and they could mandate it institutionally
>or centrally, but mandating it institutionally has a far greater
>probability of propagating the effects of the mandate -- the practice
>of self-archiving -- beyond just the particular research projects and
>fields the funder is funding, to all of each fundee's institution's
>departments and disciplines, and to competing institutions as well
>(researchers/institutions compete with rival researchers/institutions
>for research impact).
>That is why CogPrints, a central archive I started in 1998, is still
>growing so slowly
>and why even the biggest and oldest of central OA archives,
>ArXiv is still growing only linearly, after almost a decade and a half
>whereas distributed institutional are poised to grow exponentially
>as soon as institutions and research-funders mandate self-archiving:
> > I also know from hard experience how quickly publishers can pull the
> > plug on provisions not in their financial interest.
>Librarians' acquisitions/pricing experience is simply steering them
>false here. It would be so good if Brian were to have a look at and
>have a think about this FAQ this time, rather than simply reiterating
>his doomsday prophecy, reflexively, and unreflectively, as he keeps doing:
>Stevan Harnad
>A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
>open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
>is available at:
> To join or leave the Forum or change your subscription address:
> Post discussion to:
>UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
>policy of providing Open Access to your own research article output,
>please describe your policy at:
> BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
> journal whenever one exists.
> BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
> toll-access journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Thu Oct 07 2004 - 18:10:47 BST

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