Scholarly Publishing and Open Access blog

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Shades of OA: Open Access colour classifications

Published by Alison Moore

This blog post was contributed by David Gill, a former SFU Reference Librarian.

Happy Open Access Week from SFU Library!

As you continue in your academic career at SFU and elsewhere, you might hear your colleagues mention words like green, gold, grey, bronze, and diamond. Your colleagues are probably not referring to the latest Pokémon game but to the different Open Access classifications. Since the university's Open Access Policy requests SFU faculty, students, and postdoctoral fellows to share their work for open access, its important to understand the classifications system so that you can recognize how your work is used, shared, and distributed once its published. If you would like an introduction to Open Access, see Open access: Scholarly publishing

  • Green Open Access involves self-archiving your work in an open access repository, such as Summit at SFU and You can comply with the university's open access policy and requirements by funding organizations (such as CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) by depositing your work into Summit. Make sure to check with your publisher on which document version you’re allowed to archive and if there is an embargo period before the work can be made available. 
  • Gold Open Access involves publishing in an open access journal. This means that all of the content is free to access, download, copy and distribute as long as credit is given to the author. Typically, Gold OA journals let authors retain their copyright and publish the work under a Creative Commons License, allowing the work to be shared and reused (with certain limitations) without seeking the author's permission. The Directory of Open Access Journals provides a list of quality, peer reviewed, Gold OA journals. The author (funding organization or institution) can be charged an Article Processing Charge fee to publish in Gold OA journals. Did you know that you can apply for funds to publish in a Gold OA journal through SFU Library?
  • Hybrid Open Access or Paid Open Access involves the author (funding organization or institution) being charged a Article Processing Charge fee to the journal to make their work open access while the rest of the journal is under a paywall. Hybrid journals are ineligible for the SFU Central Open Access Fund.
  • Grey Open Access refers to authors who upload their work on academic social networks (ie. ResearchGate, or personal/departmental webpages. This can be problematic because the author might be infringing on their publishers’ license agreement. SFU Library recommends authors deposit work in Summit and link it to their ORCID profile
  • Diamond Open Access or Platinum Open Access are Gold OA journals that do not require an Article Processing Charge for authors to publish, or subscription fees for users to access content.
  • Bronze Open Access refers to articles made freely available on a journal’s website. However, the journal could remove the free access to these articles at any moment. Additionally, there is no indication of how users are able to reuse the articles (i.e. they might not be legally allowed to download or distribute the articles).
  • Orangewashing is similar to greenwashing in which companies use the ethos of environmentalism to win the favour of customers who value environmentally friendly products and practices. When "orangewashing", publishers may use the term open access to appeal to ethics and benefits of the movement while their practices and products are in fact less open and do not comply with the Berlin Declaration Definition of OA.   

Access to Information is human right, but it is often treated as privilege. This has to change - and it will take all of us to make it happen. - Erin McKieran, physiologist, neuroscientist, and open access advocate.


--Post by David Gill.

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