The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Tue Dec 14 21:37:45 EST 2004


On Tue, 14 Dec 2004, Rick Anderson wrote:

> My question remains: do we want to encourage the development of Gold journals? 
> If not, if the existence of Gold journals doesn't really matter, then I guess 
> there's not an issue in my mind.  

Yes, we should continue to encourage the development of Gold journals. As
one of the people who originally proposed the author-institution
cost-recovery model already a decade ago

    Harnad, S. (1995) Electronic Scholarly Publication: Quo Vadis? Serials
    Review 21(1) 70-72 (Reprinted in Managing Information 2(3) 1995)
    http://cogprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/archive/00001691/00/harnad95.quo.vadis.html

I can hardly be described as discouraging Gold journals! But I definitely
discourage the vastly disproportionate emphasis they are getting
today. Our efforts with Gold journals should be roughly in proportion to
their potential for immediate OA returns, which is about 5% today. The
remaining 95% of our efforts should be on Green self-archiving, with its
far higher immediate OA potential. Yet for several years the actual
proportions have been closer to the reverse. Only very recently (with the
growing realization that OA self-archiving can be mandated by authors' funders
and institutions, whereas OA publishing cannot) are we at last beginning
to redress the imbalance, although the current balance -- I'd guess
it's about 50/50 today -- is *still* not optimal, insofar as the interests 
and prospects of immediate OA are concerned.

Once the OA movement itself began gaining momentum, it was a mistake, and
it needlessly lost us time and progress, to have gone almost exclusively
for Gold, as we have done now for several years. However, whereas we
ought now to be putting most of our efforts into Green (as we should
have been doing from the outset), it is still important to go ahead and
keep testing Gold too, in all four of its variant forms ([1] retaining
the user-institution-end toll-based cost-recovery, but making the online
version free, immediately, or [2] within 6-12 months and [3] testing the
author-institution-end cost-recovery model, fully, and also in [4] the hybrid
optional form proposed by Tom Walker in 1998 at the outset of this Forum,
and now offered by National Academy of Sciences, Springer, and others.)

The prospect of an eventual transition to Gold is only a hypothesis
(whereas the feasibility of immediate 100% OA via Green is a
certainty). But the ground for the *possibility* of an eventual transition
from Green to Gold can and should be prepared and tested now (using 5%
of our efforts and resources), in parallel with 95% of our efforts and
resources being focussed on generating immediate OA via Green self-archiving.

Trying instead to go directly from the status quo to 100% Gold
OA is a nonstarter -- practically, logically, economically and
motivationally. Most publishers are quite justifiably uninterested
in taking such a risk with an untested cost-recovery model. However,
they have not (and they could not have) opposed OA itself. Hence 92%
of journals are already Green on author self-archiving (but now the ball
is in their authors' court, to prove they are really willing to do what
it takes to get the OA they claim to want and need so much).

So Green is the sure road to at least 92% immediate OA, if only we
concentrate our efforts on it. Meanwhile, the Gold road can continue
to be tested, to prepare for the *possibility* of an eventual transition
from Green to Gold one day. Whether there will ever be a need for that
transition -- rather than peaceful co-existence, with the self-archived
author's online OA version merely supplementing the journal's version for
those would-be users whose institutions cannot afford it -- is merely
hypothetical. But that there is an immediate need for 100% OA today is not
at all hypothetical; nor is its reachability via Green.

> (I stand by my original statement -- that authors will tend to publish in
> the venue that they think will give them the most prestige, regardless
> of whether it will give them the most readers -- but then, based on
> several things you've said during this exchange, you don't seem to
> actually disagree with that statement.  It's almost as if you've gotten
> lost in a labyrinth of reflexive argumentation, and have lost sight of
> the question that instigated the exchange...)

Nope, not lost in the least! We should be devoting 95% effort to OA via
Green and 5% via Gold, for the reasons just described. 

The *reason* we need OA at all, however, is that it maximizes research
usage and impact (by maximizing potential readership). You had expressed
doubt that authors want/need to maximize their potential readership, if
it means a trade-off with journal prestige. That would in and of itself
have amounted to an expression of doubt that authors want/need
OA (if Gold were the only option)! So the way you found yourself in
that awkward position was by focusing only on the Golden road to OA,
ignoring the Green road, and hence having to suggest that we need to find
*another* author rationale for publishing in an OA journal (rather than OA
access/impact itself) because the OA journal may not have the highest
prestige! But of course if you had not bracketed the Green option you
would have seen that the author can have both the prestige *and* the OA
maximized access/impact -- via Green! 

The spurious prestige/OA trade-off is the result of entering this
labyrinth (and I suspect that what got you and many others into it was
conflating the access/impact problem with the affordability/pricing
problem -- which is also what attracted you to gold's glitter at the cost
of ignoring the the greenness of the grass available all round).

> > Perhaps we're fooling ourselves if we imagine there is something else
> > about Gold that authors would or should desire, apart from the OA
> > that they can already get via Green! Of course Gold journals should be
> > encouraged and supported
> 
> This is the part I don't get.  If we're fooling ourselves to think that
> there's anything particularly attractive to authors about publishing in
> a Gold journal, then why is it a given that we should encourage and
> support the development of Gold journals?  If Green is good enough for
> authors, readers and publishers, then what's the point of fostering
> Gold? 

Vide supra. Gold (5%) would be an end in itself, and preferable to
any alternative, if it were the *only* way to get OA, or the easiest,
fastest, or surest way. But it's none of those, because there is Green
(95%) too. Nevertheless, Gold is worth exploring (5%) to test a possible
eventual transition from 100% Green to Gold.

Stevan Harnad

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