Article: Gold or green: the debate on Open Access policies

Citation: Abadal, E. (2013). Gold or green: The debate on Open Access policies. International Microbiology 16: 199-203.

Abadal provides a brief discussion of green and gold OA prompted by the release of the 2012 Finch Report, a document produced for the British government in response to its request for a solution that could achieve OA publishing in the UK without harming the publishing industry (p. 200). That report recommended that Gold OA (in which journals make articles available free of cost for readers) be the “strategy for all science communications in the UK” (Abadal, p. 201).

Abadal makes excellent points about how gold OA can be problematic for authors in countries which lack established infrastructures for funding researcher (p. 202). Academic publishing fees are often in the thousands of dollars, an amount which is unreasonable even for some institutions, let alone individual authors.

However, as Peter Suber points out in an overview of OA publishing on his website, there are several different business models for gold OA, listed here by the Open Access Directory, not all of which rely on authors paying fees. Indeed, Finch report recommendation aside, “most OA journals (70%) charge no author-side fees at all.” (Source, which it’s worth noting is from 2006.)

It’s absolutely true that gold OA can be prohibitively expensive for authors who don’t have an institution to cover their costs, and it’s also absolutely true that green and other forms of OA serve a very useful function. While the Finch Report’s recommendation of implementing an author payment system is disappointing, it’s worth keeping in mind that gold OA isn’t always a pay to play scenario.