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Green, Gold, Diamond, Black – what does it all mean?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

There’s a lot of jargon surrounding Open Access publication, and as with all jargon it can confuse and obfuscate. Here is a simple glossary:

Diamond / Platinum Immediate Open Access publication by the journal or book publisher without payment of a fee. Copyright is retained by the author and permission barriers are generally removed. OBP fits this description.
Gold Immediate Open Access publication by the journal or book publisher, often (although not always) with payment of a fee. Copyright is retained by the author and permission barriers are generally removed.
Green A version of the publication is archived in an institutional repository. It can be freely accessed but often only after an embargo period, and there are usually barriers to reuse. The author usually does not retain the copyright.
Black A publication made Open Access illegally (e.g. via Sci-Hub).
Hybrid A subscription journal in which the author is permitted to make an article available on an Open Access basis on payment of a fee. This model has attracted particular criticism for its expense and its vulnerability to abuses such as ‘double dipping.’
Gratis Open Access that is free to read, but there are barriers to reuse.
Libre Open Access is free to read and permission barriers are generally removed.

As you can see, some of these definitions overlap. Some people prefer other terms, e.g. rather than ‘Diamond’ or ‘Platinum’ some people prefer ‘Universal’ OA, and ‘Green’ is sometimes called ‘Secondary’ OA. Instead of ‘Gold’ some prefer ‘Born’ OA, and others assume that ‘Gold’ OA necessarily involves the payment of a fee, which is not always the case. This proliferation of terminology underlines the point that there are several models for Open Access, and some enable greater access than others.

In our view, the purpose of Open Access is to make work available as widely as possible, with as few restrictions as possible, so that knowledge is easily accessible for all. Models that flip the costs onto the author, that delay Open Access publication, or that make it difficult for a work to be widely shared and used, are not compatible with Open Access as we believe it ought to be. Although restrictions such as embargo periods might be useful in the short term to enable a transition to Open Access, they should not form the basis of a long-term Open Access strategy.

For more posts that cover the basics of Open Access, see:

This blog post is part of a series for academics who want to find out more about Open Access. Click here for the other posts.

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