Re: The UK report, press coverage, and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 2004 17:54:58 +0000

History keeps repeating itself. Not content with getting it wrong the
first time (when the Report was first released) the press just keeps
propagating the confusion between open-access publishing (gold) and
open-access self-archiving (green). Here is the first of (no doubt many)
such instances of colour-blindness, from the New Scientist:

    UK government 'obstructing' open-access publishing

> The UK government has rejected calls from an influential committee of
> MPs to alter radically the way scientific papers is published.

The UK Select committee did not call for a change in the way
scientific papers are published (gold).

> The committee's original report, published in July 2004, considered
> how scientific research is published and made available to researchers
> and the public. Traditionally, authors submit papers, which are then
> assessed by reviewers before publication in journals. These journals
> are then bought by libraries -- the authors of the papers pay nothing.
> However, "open-access" publishing has been growing in popularity. In
> one model, the authors pay a fee for publication and then, after
> review, the work is made freely accessible to everyone. Its supporters
> argue that this approach is fairer, given that much research is paid
> for by taxpayers' money.

All true, but completely irrelevant. The Report did not recommend mandating
open-access publishing (the golden road to open access); it recommended
mandating open-access self-archiving (the green road to open access):

> The government also says it is not convinced that the author-pays model
> is "inherently superior" to the current model.

More important, nobody claimed it was, or proposed imposing it (gold). The
mandate was for green.

Here is the only pertinent passage from this New Scientist article.

> The committee recommended that UK institutions establish online
> repositories where research can be accessed free of charge. The
> government agrees, calling such repositories a "significant development
> worthy of encouragement".
> But it does not prescribe a national policy, leaving this decision to
> individual institutions.

The government did indeed decline to mandate green -- but it defended this
decision purely in relation to gold, which is not what was being proposed!
An alert journalist or two will surely have to notice this, sooner or later,
instead of just parroting mechanically.

Institutions can (and, one hopes, will) mandate self-archiving (green):

but so can (and one hopes will) research funders, such as the UK Research

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon Nov 08 2004 - 17:54:58 GMT

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