Gold vs. Green – does it matter?

Open Access can commonly be split into two types – gold or green – but there are other variations as well, such as hybrid, gratis and libre open access but for the purpose of this article the focus will be on green and gold open access.

Gold Open Access is when the author pays for the research paper to be an open publication. This removes the costs of publication from the reader, as the author covers these. To find out more about gold open access, this Open Science page has some useful links.

Green open access publications are published behind a pay wall and then put into an open access repository at a later date. This method is often referred to as self-archiving. To find out more about green open access, this Open Science page has some useful links.

In 2010, around 40% of research papers published in the UK were open access, with the majority being green open access.

Gold vs Green open access

Graphic of how open access is available across scientific – and humanities – journals (source)

This was all going well until the Finch Report decided that all UK OA journals should be Gold Open Access, where funds are available. There are positives to this, as it means the research paper is available immediately, and is not embargoed from public use for any length of time – which is how Green Open Access operates. However the cost of implementing Gold Open Access has been substantial to universities as they are still supporting traditional subscription methods for existing library subscriptions.

There is no definite answer as to whether Gold OA or Green OA is better – and this website certainly won’t provide the answer to this. There are many advocates for each side who are adamant that their chosen method of Open Access is better than the other. As the Finch Report has paved the way for government legislation, open access in the UK will have to follow the strict guidelines, and embrace Gold Open Access as it’s first port of call.


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