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The open access colour system

The open access colour system is often used to describe the open access model used by a journal or a publisher. But what does it mean when a publishing channel is described as gold, green, bronze or hybrid? The colour system is not suitable to describe how a user might utilise a specific published material, however it is still used as a tool to distinguish different business models for open access publishing on a general level.

Traditionally, degrees and models for open access publishing has been described by way of colour categories. The most commonly used categories are:

Gold open access

Also called "full" or "pure" open access. All content in a publication is made openly available by the publisher in connection to its date of release. Published content carries a Creative Commons license or similar. Some publishers and journals charge an article processing charge (APC).

The library offers a range of discounts for APC:s when publishing open access. The discounts are connected to subscription agreements with the publishers.

More on: Open access journal

More on: Creative commons

More on: Discounts for open access publishing fees

Green open access

Self archiving and parallel publishing is allowed. After peer-review the author is allowed to publish a version of the article or publication on their personal web page, the web page of their department or in an open repository such as Digitala vetenskapliga arkivet (DiVA).

More on: Parallel publishing

More on: Publishing in DiVA

Hybrid open access

Journals and publishers with a hybrid publication system publish a mix of open and subscription based content. An article processing charge (APC) is always charged when publishing open access in a hybrid journal. As a rule, the APC is substantially more expensive compared to when publishing in a green open access journal.

The library offers a range of discounts for APC:s when publishing open access. The discounts are connected to subscription agreements with the publishers.

More on: Hybrid publishing

More on: Discounts for open access publishing fees

Bronze open access (Note: Not accepted by many external research funders)

Delayed open access. Initially, the publication is made available for subscribers only. After a period of time, often a specified embargo period, the publication is made open to read but not to share, reuse or adjust in any way. 

Bronze open access is not considered as a valid way to publish open access. Often, there are no licenses describing permitted use of the publication and the model is not applicable in order to fullfill research funders expectations on open access publishing. Several funders reject the model entirely.

Challenged as a way to categorize open access

The colour system has proven to be an unclear way to describe open access. It has been too possible for various parties to stretch the boundaries and definitions of the categories, as well as inventing and adding their own. For example, other colours, such as black, diamond and platinum were, more or less successfully, added over time. When making use of a material or when publishing a body of work, it is therefore better to primarily base decisions on the type of license used by a publisher or journal and by the content of the written agreements.

The colour system is still in use as a tool to distinguish different models for open access publishing on a general level, for example when describing the publishing model of a set of journals. It is also used to conceptualise different business models for open access.

Different ways to publish open access

Open access journal
Open access journal

Open access journal or platform - open access from the start.

Parallel publishing
Parallel publishing

Parallel publishing - to make a copy of a published work accessible through an open archive.

Hybrid publishing
Hybrid publishing

Hybrid publishing - open access as an option.

This information is factual only and not to be considered legal advice. Contact the university legal advisors at the Vice-Chancellor's office if legal advice is needed.

Vice-Chancellor's Office