The Green Open Access Blues: Fervent Plea to SHERPA Romeo for Colour Reform

Across the eight years since its launch in 2003, SHERPA Romeo‘s importance and value as a resource have been steadily increasing. The most recently announced upgrade covers 18,000 journals and is (1) More up to Date, with (2) More Accurate Journal Level Searching, (3) More Search Options, (4) Electronic ISSNs, and (5) Faster Performance.

In addition to congratulating SHERPA Romeo, let me use this occasion to repeat the plea I made eight years ago to adjust the colour code to provide the information that users need the most (and at the same time bring the colour coding in line with the terminology that has since gained wide currency: “Green OA”):

Although the distinction between journals that endorse the immediate OA self-archiving of both the refereed postprint and the pre-refereeing preprint (P+p) and journals that endorse the immediate OA self-archiving of the refereed postprint but not the pre-refereeing preprint (P) is not completely empty, it is of incomparably less importance and relevance to OA than the distinction between journals that do and do not endorse the immediate OA self-archiving of the refereed postprint (P vs. not-P).

It is OA self-archiving of the refereed postprint that the OA movement is about and for. And it is OA self-archiving of the refereed postprint that is meant by the term “Green OA.”

And yet SHERPA Romeo continues to code P+p as “green” and P as “blue”!

There is no “Blue OA.” And the over 200 funders and institutions that have already mandated Green OA have not mandated “Blue OA”: They could not care less whether the journals endorse the self-archiving of the unrefereed preprint in addition to the refereed postprint: Green OA only concerns the refereed postprint.

It is for this reason that EPrints Romeo has steadfastly generated a colour-corrected version of the SHERPA Romeo summary statistics pie-chart across these eight years — in addition to generating the statistics for journals as well as for publishers. (SHERPA Romeo originally covered only publishers, but the statistics for journals are much more informative — and positive — than the statistics for publishers, since one publisher might publish one journal and another might publish 2000!.)

To see the immediate gain in clarity and consistency from suppressing the P+p/P (“green”/”blue”) distinction in the summary statistics, compare the SHERPA Romeo and EPrints Romeo summary pies for publishers below. (Note that the EPrints Romeo data are static, because they have not been updated for several years. The eye will show that for publishers the proportions are much the same, but have gotten somewhat better in recent years.)

I beg SHERPA Romeo to add the simplified, colour-corrected pie alongside its particoloured one (with the explanation that in the OA world, “Green” means P, not just P+p.). It would make a world of difference for user understanding.

In addition, now that SHERPA is covering the data at the individual journal level, I urge providing the journal-level pie too, for it not only gives a more realistic picture, but an even more positive one.

SHERPA Romeo’s current “Green = Green” & “Blue = Green” publisher pie-chart (based on proportions of publishers):

EPrints Romeo’s colour-corrected publisher pie-chart, in which Green = Green OA (and preprints-only endorsements are coded as “pale green”) (based on proportions of publishers, but out of date by several years):

EPrints Romeo’s colour-corrected journals pie-chart, in which Green = Green OA (and preprints-only endorsements are coded as “pale green”) (based on proportions of journals). Note that the overall proportions are even better (but these data are out of date by several years, hence need updating, though they will not change much, as they already covered most of the big publishers, with the largest number of journals):

Stevan Harnad
EnablingOpenScholarship