What Is Open Access? And What Is All the Tumult About?

1. “Open Access” does not mean “Open Access Publishing.”

2. “Open Access” (OA) means free online access to peer-reviewed, published journal articles.

3. OA comes in two “degrees”: “Gratis” OA is free online access and “Libre” OA is free online access plus various re-use rights. (Most of the discussion right now is about Gratis OA, which is the most important, urgent and reachable degree of OA.)

4. Authors can provide OA in two ways: (4a) by publishing in a subscription journal and making their final, peer-reviewed drafts free for all online by self-archiving them in their OA institutional repositories immediately upon acceptance for publication (“Green OA”) or (4b) by paying to publish them in an OA journal that makes them free for all online (“Gold OA”).

5. Both Green OA and Gold OA is peer-reviewed: no difference there.

6. But Gold OA costs extra money (which the Finch Report proposes to take out of already-scarce research funds).

7. Green OA is free of extra cost (because subscriptions are still paying in full — and handsomely — for publication).

8. About 60% of journals officially recognize their authors’ right to provide immediate Green OA, but about 40% impose an embargo of 6-12 months or longer before their authors may provide Green OA.

9. All the UK Research Councils (RCUK) mandate that their authors provide Green OA with a maximum allowable embargo of 6 months (12 for AHRC and ESRC). They also make some funds available to pay Gold OA fees.

10. The Finch report, under very strong lobbying pressure from publishers, recommended that cost-free Green OA be phased out and that only funded Gold OA should be provided.

11. Both RCUK and the EC demurred, and continue to mandates Green OA as well as funding Gold OA.

12. The tumult from researchers and OA advocates is about the diversion of scarce research funds to pricey Gold OA what Green OA can be provided cost-free.

Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: Anna Gacs (ed). The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L’Harmattan. 99-106.

Harnad, S. (2009) The PostGutenberg Open Access Journal. In: Cope, B. & Phillips, A (Eds.) The Future of the Academic Journal. Chandos.

Harnad, S. (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).

Harnad, S. (2011) Gold Open Access Publishing Must Not Be Allowed to Retard the Progress of Green Open Access Self-Archiving. Logos: The Journal of the World Book Community. 21(3-4): 86-93

Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2012) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.)