An optimal balance of green and gold: what do our stakeholders think?

balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0

balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0

Last week Ellen Cole and I travelled up to Edinburgh to take part in the Repository Fringe, an annual event for information professionals, developers, repository and research managers to discuss and share ideas and issues around repositories and open access.

Along with the other Jisc OA Pathfinders, we were asked to talk about our project and the work we plan to do. Our workshop focused on a few key questions which have arisen from our project team’s initial discussions as well as the work that we’ve already undertaken around open access advocacy and policy development:

  1. In our institutional OA policymaking, do we aim to strike an “optimal balance” between Green and Gold OA, or do we favour one over the other?
  2. Do all stakeholders in our institutions see this the same way as us?
  3. As institutions with limited resources to address the challenges posed by OA, can we use these policies to positively influence other aspects of our institutional culture, e.g. publishing behaviour?

After a brief introduction to these questions and the project, the participants split into groups and discussed who the key open access stakeholders were in each of their institutions, what their motivations were for engaging with OA, and what they wanted to achieve with OA. Each table-based group included a mix of institutions and perspectives, including participants from HEFCE, RCUK, JISC and other non-HEIs so there was a really good mix of views. Here are a few commonly occurring stakeholders, grouped by internal/external to HEIs:

Internal HE Stakeholders

  • Research admin/managers
  • Library staff
  • IT
  • Finance
  • University/Faculty/School senior managers
  • Researchers (but see below on the distinctions that can be drawn here)
  • Legal office
  • Comms/Marketing
  • Students (but these could also be users)

External HE

  • General public
  • Research users (e.g. charities, government, industry, SMEs)
  • Funders
  • Publishers
  • Collaborators

Some of the key motivations for OA are captured below:

  • Increasing citations
  • Developing research collaborations
  • Increasing research income
  • Policy compliance
  • Preservation and archiving
  • Demonstrating impact
  • Making researchers aware of the costs of publishing
  • Giving access to research

Following this, groups were then asked to position the stakeholders on a continuum from Green to Gold OA. This was a deliberately blunt tool, as often a particular stakeholders’ position with respect to Green/Gold differs depending on the context, but it was nevertheless effective in starting a conversation about the different needs and drivers of the various people involved.

This exercise prompted some interesting discussions, such as whether “researchers” could count as a single stakeholder or whether we need to distinguish between different research disciplines and career stages with regards to OA. One of the groups which I took part in felt we couldn’t simply lump them together, for example because some STEM disciplines may feel more comfortable and familiar with a Green route to OA, while senior researchers may want funding for Gold to ensure the highest possible impact from their work.

A couple of groups distinguished between Researchers-as-producers/authors and Researchers-as-readers, and felt that the former group would sit more towards the Green end of the spectrum and the latter at the Gold end.

In the concluding feedback session there was a diverse range of opinions, including the view that it’s not possible to strike a balance between all of the stakeholders involved! Here are a few thoughts from participants grouped by area to give a flavour of the discussion:


  • The public don’t really care whether it’s green or gold – they just want access!
  • Where different stakeholders sit on the Green/Gold spectrum is difficult to tease out and depends on motivation.
  • Within group differences outweigh between group differences
  • Within some groups there are different hats, eg costing, research managers.


  • Two groups: funders and publishers aren’t getting involved in the messy business of implementation
  • The only person who benefits from Gold in the long run is the publisher.
  • Ideological discussions: should we be asking publishers to give a transparent breakdown of Gold costs?


  • Discipline specific differences: In one institution it was felt that Law just want to publish – and don’t care about OA, but at Northumbria the School of Law is setting up OA journals.
  • Green/Gold OA doesn’t matter to (some) academics – they’re interested in status of journal


  • Funders: Wellcome wanted to be Gold so provided a wider framework.
  • Wellcome researchers just rely on Wellcome to publish and perhaps don’t deposit?

We’d like to thank everyone who came along and participated in the session. The debate was really fruitful and we’ll be using the outcomes from this workshop to feed into a survey and our first project workshop, to take place in October. As always, we’ll keep the blog updated so if you’re interested in following the progress of the project please either bookmark this page or follow the blog.

About David Young

I'm a Research Funding & Policy Manager based in Research & Business Services at Northumbria University. I support research funding bids to a range of funders, focusing on the Faculty of Engineering and Environment. I also support a number of research policy areas across the university: open access, research data management, CRIS, research strengths, and REF impact.
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3 Responses to An optimal balance of green and gold: what do our stakeholders think?

  1. Pingback: An optimal balance of Green and Gold: what do our stakeholders think? | Northumbria Research Support

  2. Pingback: Follow Up to Repository Fringe 2014 | Repository Fringe 2014

  3. Pingback: Pathfinder Update | Optimising resources to develop a strategic approach to Open Access

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