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In recent times there have been a number of drivers that have placed the notion of open access centre stage in many Australian universities. The biggest driver has been grant funder “open access mandates” especially those of the NHMRC and the ARC with a the move to compliance. A second major driver has been the release of the “Finch” Report" (Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings in the UK), it’s very quick adoption by RCUK with its support of “Gold Open Access” and the subsequent challenge to the Report by the BIS Committee report on Open Access and its support for the “Green” Open Access option.

With this focus on open access, publishers are offering various publishing models to authors which is causing some confusion, so it is timely the we reiterate the definitions of "Green" and "Gold" open access. It should be noted that even in this space there are a number of definitions as what constitutes green and gold however,\ I have tried to state the ones that we think are the clearest remembering that you can always contact your Faculty Librarian or the Sydney eScholarship Repository for further clarification or advice.

The definitions:

  • Gold open access: refers to work that is immediately available free of charge at the site of publication to any member of the public. Post-Finch it is commonly taken to mean that such access is supported by author-side article processing charges (APCs) …” (Vincent & Wickham, 2013, p. 121). In general terms the “Article Processing/Publishing Charge” means an author, upon the acceptance of a piece of work, is required to pay a fee for publication. “Pure Gold” open access journals are not subscription based and only charge an APC as a means of recouping costs (Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Open Access. Fifth Report of Session 2013-14, 2013, p. 3)
  • Green open access: refers to work that is made publicly available in a repository, institutional or subject-based, after an embargo period. Variants of Green open access depend on whether what is made available after the embargo period is the author’s final submitted text (or ‘pre-print’) or the article in its post-refereed form (or ‘post-print’).” (Vincent & Wickham, 2013, p. 121)

Where things get slightly more “grey” is where a publisher who has not charged an APC will, for a fee, allow open access for the published work on top of the subscription that the Library has already paid. Vincent and Wickham, 2013 refer to this as a “Hybrid” model. Usually under this scenario the publisher will allow “Green Open Access” after an embargo period however for immediate open access an author can pay to have the work made available on open access most commonly on the publisher’s site. The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee report refers to this as “Double Dipping” as the Library has already paid for the full subscription

Further complicating this is the fact that paying to have work made available on open access does not always mean you have full rights to your work, only that the work is openly accessible on the publishers site. This is important to note especially as authors may wish to increase the impact of their work through media such as institutional or subject based repositories.

There are numerous issues with both green and especially gold open access options and also the whole notion of what open access means to different disciplines within academic community. While there is not enough space in this post to cover it all we will be inviting a number of academics and researchers across the University to provide their views and issues. Many are already contributing to the debate see:

If you have anything that you would like to contribute please contact me, Sten Christensen. We hope that you will join the discussion and debate the issues.


  1. Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings. "Accessibility, Sustainability, Excellence: How to Expand Access to Research Publications. Report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings ", 2012. [http://www.researchinfonet.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Finch-Group-report-FINAL-VERSION.pdf]

  2. Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Open Access. Fifth Report of Session 2013-14, House of Commons (2013). [http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/business-innovation-and-skills/news/on-publ-open-access/]
  3. Vincent, N., & Wickham, C. (Eds.). (2013). Debating Open Access. London: British Academy, The.


Thanks for the discussion of this very important topic. Another consideration re open access for me as a PhD student, is the capacity to put my published articles in my completed thesis on the repository. A thesis can be very incomplete and disjointed if you cannot include your published chapters, so I have been looking into the policies of the publishers prior to submission to ensure that I can post my thesis in full on the repository when it is done....a trap for young players.


Green OA is OA through a repository. Sometimes it is embargoed and sometimes it is not. Embargoes are not part of the definition.

Most non-OA publishers that permit green OA permit unembargoed green OA.

Green OA mandates from universities sometimes permit embargoes, and green mandates from funding agencies usually permit embargoes. But regardless of the type of institution, green mandates seldom require embargoes.

Don't mistake policies to permit or require embargoes, or incentives to encourage or discourage embargoes, for green OA itself.

Green OA is like sex. Some people wait until marriage and some don't. But even if you recommend waiting, and even if you only talk with people who recommend waiting, it doesn't follow that waiting is part of the definition.

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