Your guide to Open Access publishing and Open Science

Green, Gold, Gratis and Libre Open Access – brief overview for beginners

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The scientific community has adopted a division of Open Access into two main types: Green and Gold. Almost everyone who has had contact with Open Access knows what lies behind these two terms. But apart from these, there are also other names, such as Hybrid OA, Gratis OA and Libre OA. What is hidden behind these terms? Below you will find a brief explanation, and links that should help you navigate better through the maze of definitions.

Green Open Access

What is Green Open Access?  In a sentence, it is a way of self-archiving. The researcher decides to submit the results of his/her research in a selected repository that is open, which means that anyone has access to it, and that the materials are free. Of course, there are many forms of self-archiving. They depend on, for example, what kinds of licenses are used by authors for their papers. A lot also depends on whether the article was previously published by a traditional scientific publishing house, and what rights to the article have been retained by the publisher. Green Open Access in practice has many shades.

More about Green OA can be found in the article: “What is Green Open Access? Useful links for beginners”.

Gold Open Access

On the other hand we have Gold Open Access. In Gold OA, in simple terms, the author publishes a paper in an OA book or journal, supported by an OA publisher. The terms of publication are the same as in the case of traditional publishers, except that the published paper is freely available to the public. Gold Open Access does not charge the reader and assigns the costs (APCs) to the author – although it should be noted that an increasing number of OA publishers waive these charges.

More about Gold OA can be found in the article: “What is Gold Open Access – useful links for beginners”.

Hybrid Open Access

Hybrid Open Access is most commonly associated with Gold Open Access. This model is a mix of subscription charges and publication fees. If the author wishes his/her article to be published immediately in the open access model, he/she must cover the APCs – of course, only when the publisher requires that kind of fee. This way the article will be freely available, but that does not mean that the journal in which it will be published will be fully open access. The journal can be hidden behind a paywall, and the user or the library will have to pay a fee to gain access. In this model, only the articles for which the authors have covered APCs are available for free. This solution is far from the idea of free access and is the subject of criticism, and much debate on the nature of publishing in OA. The list of complaints is long, and one of the main cons is that fees are paid twice in the hybrid OA model, through subscriptions and publication costs. On the other hand, the author has a wider selection of journals. However, at present the number of OA journals is so large that it is hard not to find a place to publish your article. What is interesting, according to the article, “The Hybrid Model for Open Access Publication of Scholarly Articles – a Failed Experiment?” by Bo-Christer by Björk, is that “in just over two years [2009-2012] the number of journals from major publishers offering hybrid Open Access has more than doubled, from approximately 2,000 to over 4,400. Since the overall numbers of journals from these publishers has remained on the same level, the hybrid share has risen from 25 % to around 50% of all eligible journals.”

To find out more about Hybrid Open Access I recommend the following pages:

Gratis and Libre Open Access

Gratis and Libre are two terms that are in some way tied to one other, although they relate to different matters. They are also often treated as one and the same, or used interchangeably. Generally, in contrast to Gold, Green and Hybrid OA, they do not describe forms of publication, but define the attributes of an article published in OA. Therefore, you can find instances when an article is described jointly as Gratis Open Access, or Gratis Gold/Green Open Access, etc.

The differences between these two forms are well described by Peter Suber: “Gratis” access is free of charge. “Libre” access is free of charge and free for some kinds of further use and reuse. Gratis access is compatible with an all-rights-reserved copyright, which allows no uses beyond fair use (or the local equivalent). Libre access is not compatible with an all-rights-reserved copyright, and presupposes some kind of open license permitting uses not permitted by default. As I’ve sometimes put it, gratis removes price barriers alone and libre removes price barriers and permission barriers.

To find out more about Gratis and Green Open Access I recommend the following pages:

As you can see, there is no shortage of terms and definitions to describe the different forms of Open Access. I have only scratched the surface – not even listing all of them. The sheer number proves that there is no simple approach to this issue. Clearly, the multiplicity of types and terms may cause a certain methodological chaos and confusion, because the concept of Open Access hides many different forms, often at odds with the adopted declarations and definitions. OA is still growing and finding its way. This gives authors a wide selection of models to choose from, but also leads to confusion, especially when institutions or governments decide to introduce mandatory policies. It must be remembered that these terms are not only the result of methodological debates, but also the result of conflicting interests and groups of influence. Changing the paradigm, and introducing OA to science is precisely the type of change that entails experimentation and negotiation. Is definitional and practical consensus possible? We will see. Everything will depend on whether the scientific community will be able to determine the basis of the new system and gain adequate support to incorporate it.


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