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Deciding between the gold open access and the green open access publishing models

Although the open access (OA) movement continues to gather pace within the academic research community and scholarly publishing, most notably via the European Union sponsored Plan S, we find that early-career researchers (ECRs) remain confused about what OA means for them and their careers. How can you make decisions about which journals to publish your work in and understand the definitions used in the OA world? 

Many ECRs ask:

What’s the difference between green and gold OA publishing?

This is a very common area of confusion as academic researchers tend to think in binary terms about their work: it will either be freely available to all or it won’t. Thus, confusion abounds, especially around the different OA models created by the publishing industry:

Is it better to go ‘green’ or ‘gold’ with your next paper?

Imagine you’ve completed a piece of research and are thinking about writing it up for a journal. You’re now confronted with a series of choices, the most important of which is journal selection.


Gold open access

A large number of academic journals are now completely OA and publish articles according to the ‘gold’ model: this means that all content is free to access and download immediately on publication. Sounds good, but the downside (from an author’s perspective) of this model is that an article processing charge (APC) is usually levied by the publisher. This cost is often a huge issue for academic authors, for obvious reasons.


Green open access

The other alternative is to go ‘green’. This OA model refers to the publication of an article in any journal preceded or followed by the archiving of a copy in a freely accessible institutional or specialist online archive known as a repository, or on a website. Most often the ‘green’ model is free-of-charge for authors, but the version that is archived is usually not the final published (typeset) paper but rather a preprint or text document.



Gold = Final published article and all data are completely OA but usually involves an APC

Green = Preprint archived, final published article not OA, no cost to author

We know that researchers globally do tend to support OA publishing: the instincts of ECRs especially are that OA is a good thing and that articles and data should be freely accessible. However, ECR OA publishing aspirations are not always consistent with career goals; at the end of the day, who would turn down the chance to publish their work in a leading high impact factor journal with a great reputation in the field? OA might then becomes a secondary concern.


We can help you navigate the confusing journal selection step of the publishing process by providing target journal suggestions for your next research paper. We also provide consultancy services where one of our expert editors will work with you as you put your next paper together. Why not get in touch with us to discuss your publishing options?


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