Going for gold… or for green?

Nieuws | de redactie
16 juli 2012 | The UK Government was recently advised to take the ‘gold route’ towards open access. For British universities the ‘green route’ is a much safer bet, explains Paul Ayris (University College London).

There are two main routes for open access of journals,monographs etc.: the ‘green route’ and the ‘gold route’. Dr PaulAyris, head of UCL Library Services since 1997, is well placed toexplain the differences between the two colours. Ayris was the keyspeaker at the summer school of the League of European ResearchUniversities (LERU). Shortly ago LERU published a roadmap towardsopen access, under the auspices of Dr Ayris.

“The ‘green route’ is very much like what would normally happenif you publish a book”, Ayris explains. “But next to publishing abook with a publisher, you also put an open access copy in an openaccess repository. The reasons to opt for the ‘green route’ is tohave the benefits of the peer review-system that maintains thequality of the scientific work. Open access repositories don’toffer peer review services. Another advantage: the benefits to theuser. Publishing a book doesn’t depend on the ability to pay upfront. All the same through open access the author gets cited alot.”

The paying author

“The ‘gold route’ on the other hand means that you publish abook or an article with an open access publisher only the fundingis different. In a commercial environment a library payssubscription costs to the publisher. In the ‘golden open access’it’s not the library that pays, but the author. This is also themodel advised by the Finch Group.”

According to Paul Ayris, publishers would be more comfortablewith the ‘gold model’, because they would have a secure incomestream in times where there are huge changes in the field ofscholarly communication.  No wonder the Finch Group – in whichthe publishing business was represented – went for ‘gold’.

No support for Finch

“The Finch report was not widely supported by universities in theUK”, Ayris tells ScienceGuide. “You see, not every researcher isfunded by research funders. The Finch report simply advocates thatthe UK Research Council finances the researchers, but that doesn’tsolve the question of foreign access to research findings. Theuniversities would simply have to greatly increase their budgets.”University College London is certainly not opting for the ‘goldroute’, Paul Ayris concedes.

A good example of a publisher that has quickly adapted to thenew circumstances is Amsterdam University Press, says Paul Ayris.”They publish monographs as well as journals in open access.” Anexample of a successful open access journal is the PLoS suite of journals (PLoSmeaning Public Library of Science). Another title Ayris mentions iseLife, an open access journal to be launched next year andwhich should rival journals like Science and Nature.

Exiting and frightening

The transition to open access will have huge implications forthe science community. “I think it’s both exciting andfrightening”, Paul Ayris confides. “Frightening because we aretrying to make this change, while letting the research and theteaching go on as usual. With the current economic circumstances,the major hurdle is that all this change can’t increase ourcosts.” 

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