If you’re not confused by the many variants of Open Access, you might not be paying attention. For those who are, the good news is that there have been some gallant efforts to alleviate the confusing, if not sometimes contradictory, terms that are applied to this field. Color coding is one of them. In fact, we’ve ended up with a veritable Skittles rainbow of Open Access colors.
In a previous post we focused on two of them: Green and Gold. But sometimes Green is Gold, and at other times, Gold is Green. What? It’s true, because the two categories frequently overlap (articles published in an Open Access journal can be freely re-used by their authors and archived, meaning Gold publishers are actually Green where archiving is concerned). So no wonder it’s confusing! Nevertheless, we’ll take a stab here at sorting things out.
First, the colors beyond the Gold and the Green: Blue, Yellow, and White. The scheme was proposed by the JISC-funded RoMEO project in 2003 in an effort to provide a standardized approach to defining the various rights and restrictions that publishers impose upon their authors. In short, they relate to the status of the content, specifically whether it is pre-pint or post-print.
Pre-print is a version of a paper before peer review, while post-print means it has been peer-reviewed and revised accordingly, and is ready for formal publication. Here’s how it breaks out:
Green: These papers can archive both pre-print and post-print.
Blue: These can archive post-print, but not pre-print.
Yellow: Archive is allowed pre-print, but not post-print.
White: Absolutely no archiving allowed, pre- or post-print.
Simple enough? Remember also that papers can generally be made Gold for a fee paid by the author or his/her organization. Think PLOS, for example.
Lastly, we’ll posit one more color here: Black. These would be papers that have escaped their paywalls, having been illicitly liberated by pirates like Sci-Hub. For about 329 different reasons, you really don’t want to be caught with these in any way, shape, or form. That would have your governance, risk, and compliance people seeing Red.