POST: Why Open Access definitions are confusing

Aaron Tay (Singapore Management University) has authored a post, “Why Open Access definitions are confusing,” on his blog. Tay lays out areas of Open Access (OA) that he has found confusing personally, in the hopes of elucidating others:

Rather, as open access categories start to get more nuanced and granular, our attempts to force open access definitions into singular colors/metal labels such as  (Green, Gold, Bronze, Platinum) and act like they all differ in just one dimension is overly simplistic, when in fact the definitions vary on multiple dimensions.

The post details “disagreements” in OA about goals, methods, and even facts around how OA works and how it functions in the wider scholarly publishing universe. As an academic librarian, Tay notes that understanding the different types of OA is key to his job and the future of libraries in general, but also notes the complicated and shifting nature of versions of OA:

The other major drawback of adopting one best OA version method is that this best OA label might shift over time. As the Unpaywall developer notes, insisting on a best OA label can result in colors shifting from say Green to Bronze or Green to Bronze as copies drop in and out… Part of why we got into this mess is because we decided the OA colors are distinct categories like the way real colors are. When in fact they overlap in a lot of ways. Green, Gold, Bronze, Hybrid OA do not measure or vary on just one dimension, but on several, so you can’t just compare them directly and choose the “best” one.

Tay closes by saying he primarily wrote this post to try to sort out his own thoughts and confusion, but dh+lib readers might find the threads he’s tracking of interest to their work as well.

dh+lib Review

This post was produced through a cooperation between Lisa Bonifacic, Carla Brooks, Robin Miller, Craig Nielsen, Luis Rubio, Amy Rupert, Rebecca Saunders, Rekesha Spellman, Jolanda-Pieta (Joey) van Arnhem, (Editors-at-large for the week), Caitlin Christian-Lamb and Pamella Lach (Editors for the week), and Alasdair Ekpenyong, Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara, and Linsey Ford (dh+lib Review Editors).