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Levy Library Blog

Differentiating the Different Types of Open Access Publishing

by Angelyn Thornton on 2021-10-13T08:00:00-04:00 | Comments


Lily Martin, MLIS (She/her/hers)

Reference & Instruction Librarian


If you’re involved in publishing your research, you may be required (or prefer!) to publish open access (OA). Over the past decade, as open access publishing models have evolved, various subtypes of open access have been identified. These are often referred to by a range of colors, gems, or precious metals and can be a bit tricky to differentiate. Let’s take a look at some of the most common subtypes of open access and where you may come across them:


Gold OA:

One of the most common types of open access is referred to as gold OA. Publishing in this model typically involves paying article processing charges (APCs) which may be paid by (or in combination by) library/institutional funds, personal funds, or grants. This ensures that the final version of record of an article (that is, a final, peer-reviewed manuscript) is freely available upon publication at the journal’s website. If all of a journal’s content fits this model it is referred to as a gold OA journal.1


Green OA:

Another common type of open access, green OA, is a bit more difficult to define as it may cover several different cases, but in general refers to versions of articles self-archived in an open access repository.2 In other words, green OA may be a version of an article that is posted somewhere other than a journal website. Examples include accepted author manuscripts posted on PubMed Central, pre-prints posted on a pre-print server, or manuscripts posted on an institutional repository. Green OA, in many cases, requires authors to be responsible for depositing a version of an article in an open access repository.1 However, the final version of record of the article will typically be behind a paywall on a journal’s website.


Diamond OA:

Diamond OA refers to a type of gold OA that does not require article processing charges or subscription fees. In effect, diamond OA journals are free for both readers and authors. Funding for these journals comes from outside sources, such as non-profit organizations, public funds, or elsewhere.3


Bronze OA:

Bronze OA refers to articles that are made free to read on a publisher website. This access may be temporary, however, as it is not guaranteed by author payment or contract.4 An example of bronze OA you may have seen recently is a journal making its COVID-19-related content open and accessible to everyone.


Hybrid OA:

At the journal level, some traditional subscription journals also give authors to option to publish individual articles open access. These are referred to as hybrid OA journals. Generally, in these types of journals, individual open access papers (paid for by APCs) appear alongside paywalled articles that the library provides access to via licensing fees.2


This is just a brief overview of the many colors of the OA rainbow, and as OA continues to evolve, these definitions may change. We may even see more OA models develop in the future!


Interested in learning more about your open access publishing options? Visit our Open Access Guide!


  1. Holley RP. Open Access: Current Overview and Future Prospects. Library Trends. 2018;67(2):214-40.
  2. Hinchliffe, LJ. Seeking Sustainability: Publishing Models for an Open Access Age. [Internet] The Scholarly Kitchen; 2020 [cited 6 October 2021]. Available from:
  3. Fuchs C, Sandoval M. The Diamond Model of Open Access Publishing: Why Policy Makers, Scholars, Universities, Libraries, Labour Unions and the Publishing World Need to Take Non-Commercial, Non-Profit Open Access Serious. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society. 2013;11(2):428-43.
  4. Piwowar H, Priem J, Larivière V, Alperin JP, Matthias L, Norlander B, et al. The state of OA: a large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles. PeerJ. 2018;6:e4375.

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