Re: The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 22:02:02 +0000

On Mon, 13 Dec 2004, Rick Anderson wrote:

> I do believe that [Gold] can (and must) be weighed independently of
> the Green option -- at least, if you're planning to start up an OA
> journal and start competing for authors with other journal publishers.

If your rationale for starting up a Gold (OA) journal is so that its articles
can be OA (i.e., accessible free for all online), I think it is better
to bear in mind that the author has the Green option -- to publish in an
existing Green journal (92%) and make his article OA by self-archiving
it. Let us call that reason "OA."

The only other candidate reason for publishing in an OA (Gold) journal
(besides that that too is a way to make one's article OA) is that
it reduces journal acquisition *cost*. Let us call that other reason
"OAC. I don't think OAC will carry much weight with authors.

Are there other reasons for OA besides OA and OAC? Serious, substantive
reasons I mean, ones that we can take as a credible rationale for an
author to choose Gold over Green?

> The marketplace can have both Green and Gold journals in it, of course,
> but no single journal can be both Green and Gold.

I'm afraid I have to disagree. Since a Green journal is simply one
that gives its authors the green light to self-archive, all Gold
journals are eo ipso Green! (A journal can even be simultaneously open-access
and toll-access -- as long as it makes its *online version* OA for free. It
need not adopt the author-institution-end cost-recovery model to be Gold.)

> I'm trying to look at this from the perspective of a publisher that
> wants to establish a new Gold journal. How will that journal compete
> for authors in a marketplace that gives authors other choices (especially
> if the publisher plans to charge authors for the privilege of publishing
> in its new journal)?

You are quite right to ask this question. I think we *all* have to
examine our reasons for preferring OA: An author has to ask himself "Why
do I want OA for my article?" The answer can be OA, OAC, both, or some
further factor(s) (but if so, which?). My guess is that an author will have
no *objection* to OAC, might even be quite for it, but he will not choose
a journal because of OAC alone, if the non-OAC journal is the otherwise
suitable one. He might choose a Gold journal because of both OA and OAC --
but not over a Green journal, if that is the most suitable one, for he
can have OA there without OAC (and OAC is not the author's main concern).
(And so far this is all without even mentioning the deterrent of the
author-institution charge for a Gold journal that uses that cost-recovery

Not just authors, but other OA advocates too -- university and
departmental provosts and department chairs, research funders, librarians
-- likewise need to remind themselves very explicitly about exactly
why it is that they are advocating OA: Is it OA, OAC, both, or some
further factor(s) (if so, which?)? Here too, I think it is OA, not OAC,
that will be the main reason for all (with the possible exception of

In relegating the readership/usage/impact factor to a secondary role (in
considering only Gold journals) and dissociating it from another factor --
"prestige" -- you are missing the fact that the rationale for OA itself
is readership/usage/impact! And you are, I think, inadvertently putting
that (OA) in *competition* with OAC! You are looking for reasons *other*
than readership/usage/impact why an author would want to renounce a
more "prestigious" journal that was not Gold, for one that was Gold
(and perhaps even be willing to *pay* for the privilege!).

My guess is that you have unwittingly lost your way in the OA
labyrinth. You probably entered it in the first place for a reason other
than OA, namely, the library journal affordability/pricing problem,
and OAC looked like it might possibly provide a remedy for that. Now
Green looks as if can provide OA as surely as Gold will, but without
remedying the library journal affordability/pricing problem; so you
need another reason for Gold (to persuade authors, I mean), and here
you are, looking for one!

But OAC itself is not another reason. It is just restating the fact
that besides the access/impact problem (for which OA, of either
colour, is the remedy) there is still also the library journal
affordability/pricing problem, requiring a separate incentive (not
OA!) for the author to renounce the most suitable journal, even if it
has greater prestige, and even if it may cost the author-institution
some more money -- and this separate incentive cannot be more
readers/usage/impact (but something else, you aren't sure yet what)!

This is a labyrinth indeed. The easy way out is to recall that the reason
for OA is OA itself (i.e., maximized access/impact), nothing else. OAC
would be a bonus, if/when it prevailed, but it is not sufficient incentive
for the author (nor, I suggest, for his institution or research funder).

> Saying "authors will choose the Gold journal because it will have lots
> of readers" is insufficient. To the degree that authors want readers,
> it is primarily as a means to the end of greater prestige, and most
> authors will happily submit their articles to toll-access journals
> (despite the access barriers they place before readers) if doing so will
> net them higher prestige. High-prestige, toll-access journals may be
> Green, of course, and when they are that's wonderful.

But that's already 92% of journals! Is this, then, all about just the remaining
8% that are still gray? Why not forget about it for now, and focus on getting the
contents of the 92% of journals that are green to be made OA by their authors?
Right now only 20% are (5% of it via Gold, 15% via Green). When the literature
reaches 92% OA you may just find that the remaining 8% goes green too, and there
is no longer any need to worry about weaning authors from their preferred

> But do we actually want to see new Gold journals emerge? If not, then I have
> nothing more to say on the matter; let's encourage all journals to
> choose the Green road and forget about the Gold one. But if we do want
> to see new Gold journals, what can be done to help them compete for
> authors with established, prestigious toll-access journals? I believe
> that publishers of OA journals face some unique challenges in that
> regard, and I've detailed those in the article I mentioned earlier.
> Offering an author lots of readers is fine, but we're fooling ourselves
> if we think that high readership is the author's ultimate goal and that
> she will automatically prefer an OA publishing forum simply because it
> minimizes barriers to access.

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, but no
one should give the impression that they (5%) are the fastest or surest road to
immediate OA at this time!

> the relatively small number of OA journals has
> no effect on any individual author's ability to submit an article to one
> of those journals.

If/when the most suitable journal for his article happens to be among that lucky

> You can defend the idea that there's only room in those journals for 5%
> of the articles in the general marketplace, but your assertion that "95%
> of authors today have no option *but* to publish in a non-OA journal"
> is what doesn't make sense. (Which 95%? Am I one of them? How would
> I know if I were?)

The way to find out whether or not you are in that 5% is to have a paper
for submission in a peer-reviewed journal ready, and to see whether or not there
is a Gold journal among the journals that are suitable for your paper among
the Gold Journals in the Directory of OA Gold Journals (DOAJ).

The chances are about 5% (though they may vary with the field). That's
how statistics tend to work...

Jim Till asks this question, but about Green:

> > Jim Till wrote: Two questions: 1) Which are the top three journals
> > in which to publish articles about OA? 2) Of these, which ones
> > are of a hue of green such that they permit self-archiving of the
> > final peer-reviewed, accepted and edited version of the article?
> > Jim Till University of Toronto

He needs to check whether there is a suitable Green journal among the 92%
in the Romeo Directory of journal self-archiving policies:

> if we believe that all an academic author cares about is attracting
> lots of readers. AL offers many more readers than SR. If an author in
> the library field really just wants to "maximize users," she will write
> for whatever publication will offer her the most readers.

I think not. First we are talking here only about peer-reviewed journals
(24,000 of them), not all journals and magazines. Second, "publish or perish"
for an academic usually means publish in the highest quality/impact/prestige
*peer-reviewed* journal you can (and your publications will be weighed
accordingly). So, having found the most suitable peer-reviewed journal, all
the author has to do to maximize usage and impact is to make sure the article
is OA. If the lucky journal is Gold (5%), that comes with the
territory. If it is Green (92% - 5% = 88%) he can make his article OA by
self-archiving it. (If it is Gray (8%) he can either ask the publisher
anyway, use the preprint-plus-corrections strategy, pick a less-suitable
journal that is either Gold or Green, or renounce the extra usage and impact...)

> In fact, she may well bypass the
> formal publishing system altogether and simply post her article to a
> website, throw in some good metadata tags and mention it in a few
> carefully-selected discussion groups. Will this approach yield her much
> in the way of scholarly reputation, or help her to earn tenure?
> Probably not. Will it bring her lots of readers? Probably so.

Maybe not even readers, because (as other ongoing discussion in this Forum
indicates), both peer-review and the journal's name and quality standard are
important to the would-be users too, not to just the author's promotion

> Being equivalent in the respect of peer review doesn't mean being
> equivalent in the ability to confer prestige on authors. There are
> differences in prestige between peer-reviewed journals, and journals
> gain prestige gradually over time.

The differences among peer-reviewed journals are differences in peer-review
*standards and selectivity*. Hence the higher quality journals earn their higher
"prestige" by enforcing higher quality standards. This is also reflected in
positive correlations among journal impact factors, rejection rates, and how
they are ranked in peer judgments.

    Lee KP, Schotland M, Bacchetti P, Bero LA (2002) Association of
    journal quality indicators with methodological quality of clinical
    287 (21): 2805-2808

        "High citation rates... and low manuscript acceptance rates...
        appear to be predictive of higher methodological quality scores
        for journal articles"

    Ray J, Berkwits M, Davidoff F (2000) The fate of manuscripts rejected
    by a general medical journal. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF MEDICINE 109
    (2): 131-135.

        "The majority of the manuscripts that were rejected... were
        eventually published... in specialty journals with lower impact

    Donohue JM, Fox JB (2000) A multi-method evaluation of journals in the
    decision and management sciences by US academics. OMEGA-INTERNATIONAL

        "perceived quality ratings of the journals are positively
        correlated with citation impact factors... and negatively
        correlated with acceptance rate."

    Yamazaki S (1995) Refereeing System of 29 Life-Science Journals
    Preferred by Japanese Scientists SCIENTOMETRICS 33 (1): 123-129

     "There was a high correlation between the rejection rate and
     the impact factor"

All indications are that impact can be improved upon -- sometimes substantially --
by making the article OA:

    Harnad, S. & Brody, T. (2004) Comparing the Impact of Open Access
    (OA) vs. Non-OA Articles in the Same Journals, D-Lib Magazine 10
    (6) June

And *that* is the essential rationale for OA.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Dec 14 2004 - 22:02:02 GMT

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