August 25, 2013
This is the old version of this post. You can find the improved version here.
The advantages and disadvantages of Green and Gold OA are discussed by the scientific community all the time. Which one of these two models is more open and accessible? Which one should be treated as the real OA? And finally, which one is better for authors? Let’s make a short list of the pros and cons of each model.
It can be said that Green OA better embodies the idea of open access to research results. Basically, the cost of Green OA can be reduced down to only the cost of repository infrastructure. The author does not have to pay APCs since we are, in fact, talking about self-publishing and the self-archiving of scientific papers. There are almost no intermediaries who “prey” on the work of scientists. What is more important is that the author decides where, when and in which form his or her research is made available to readers. However, with Green OA there is one small problem, namely, peer-review. Of course, self-publishing does not mean that papers in OA repositories are not peer-reviewed. Today a large number of publications published in Green OA are articles that have first been published in journals which offer classic peer-review and impact factors, and these journals usually enforce a time embargo on publishing in repositories. That embargo is one of the biggest problems and obstacles for the development of Green OA. Another issue is that a scientific article could vanish in the maze of the ever increasing number of repositories. Currently, almost every research institution and university wishes to have their own repository. Searching through them can be a tiresome task.
On the other hand, there is Gold OA, a publishing model which is not very different from that of traditional journals, but with an additional feature – accessibility for everyone. In OA journals, articles are peer-reviewed, edited and released for publication on “traditional” principles. This model also implies that the author must pay APCs, but not necessarily with private funds (see article: 5 truths about publishing in Open Access which you should know before you start). It can be said that this model is not as open as Green OA.
Gold OA is more in harmony with the current realities of scientific publishing. Today’s career development system is based on publication in journals, which can generate Impact Factor and may contribute to higher citation levels, and Gold OA is able to offer just that.
So what to choose? Gold OA or Green OA? In my view, it is difficult at this point to consider Green OA as an alternative to the traditional model of publishing in science. At least not under the current paradigm that places such strong emphasis on prestige and recognition. Green OA offers no mechanisms for promotion, and neither does it assure scientists that publishing in this model will serve their careers in a measurable way. What is more, Green OA may still be regarded as something adjunct to the existing publishing model: first publish your paper in a regular journal, and once the embargo has been lifted, consider submitting it to some repository.
This does not mean, however, as often appears in this discussion, that it makes sense to put Gold OA and Green OA on opposite sides of the barricade. The two models can be complementary. Moreover, it is good that two models exist. This provides a greater opportunity for authors to influence the development of both. At some point, the paradigm will change and the competition between the Green and Gold models will cease to make sense.