Diamonds as a way out of the crisis? A (partial) look at Diamond Open Access and the OA color palette

The Open Access movement is a comparatively young movement. It developed in the 1990s as a result of the so-called journal crisis. During this crisis, prices rose, especially in STEM subjects – a collective term for professions or fields of study in mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology, which are also referred to as MINT subjects in Germany. At the same time, library budgets stagnated or shrank. One consequence: the number of paid journal subscriptions declined. Publishers tried to compensate for this loss of revenue with further price increases – a cycle that Open Access wants to break.

Diamond Icon
Diamond Open Access: a way against rising publication costs? (Figure „Diamond_Icon_Transparent„, published under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)

Conceptual developments

Open Access means that scientific publications are accessible to all interested parties worldwide free of charge. This simplifies the subsequent use of content and increases the visibility of research results. This way, authors do not cede exclusive rights of use to publishers. Although the Open Access movement is comparatively young compared to traditional publication channels, the term has now become established in the scientific community. Articles are increasingly appearing in open access. As part of the dynamically developing publication culture, new forms and terms are constantly emerging for the different variants of OA publishing. As a rule, the designation is based on colors, so that one can also speak of the OA color theory.

Gold Open Access

The golden OA path is a first publication of scientific texts in OA journals or other OA publications. Publication fees are often charged to publishers. In this author-financed approach, the costs are borne by the authors themselves or their institutions via Article Processing Charges (APC). The development of publication costs must be viewed critically here, so as not to end up in a price spiral again – as was the case with the subscription payments mentioned at the beginning of the journal crisis. This is because the establishment of Open Access has not only led to an increase in the number of corresponding publications: APC costs are also rising continuously.

At the TUHH, the tub. provides advice on questions regarding journal selection or the Open Access Publication Fund for support in paying article fees under certain conditions (see also here).

Green Open Access

The “green” route of open access publishing (often also: second publication or self-archiving) refers to making available scholarly publications that have previously appeared with a publisher in a journal or other publication. Most scholarly publishers allow delayed publication of the postprint or preprint on an institutional repository such as TORE. This OA option is often criticized for being too costly and cumbersome to implement. For example, publication rights have to be clarified with publishers or co-authors, and it is often not possible to use the publisher’s version of an article despite the time gap. The Sherpa Romeo project provides detailed information on individual publishers.

Diamond Open Access

Diamond Open Access (often also “Platinum Open Access”) is initially similar to publication in a Gold Open Access journal. As with Gold Open Access publications, a contribution is directly accessible worldwide to all interested parties free of charge. Whereas with Gold Open Access publications, however, authors or institutions have to pay a publication fee to a publisher in the form of APCs for publication, this is not the case with the diamond route. Here, for example, scientific institutions, professional societies or funding organizations ensure the operation of an OA journal. Diamond Open Access publications are therefore free of charge for readers AND authors. Scientific discourse is thus not restricted by payment barriers. This is why it is often referred to as the fairest OA approach currently available, since researchers can participate regardless of budgets in regions, disciplines and institutions.

The increasing importance of Diamond Open Access is currently reflected in the intensified debate in the specialist communities. The German Initiative for Networked Information (DINI) e. V., for example, has signed the Action Plan for Diamond Open Access. The official statement reads: “Mit der Unterzeichnung des Aktionsplans betont DINI die Relevanz der Open-Access-Publikationsinfrastrukturen in akademischer Trägerschaft für die Forschung.”

Almost simultaneously, the BMBF-funded CODRIA project published a list of German Diamond Open Access journals. Predominantly, journals from the humanities and social sciences can be found here. However, publications such as “Documenta Mathematica”, “Technische Mechanik” or “Drinking Water Engineering and Science” are also included for the STEM field. The TUHH has also taken up the topic of “Diamond Open Access” most recently in the context of the 80th Library Committee (see also following slides).

Other open access colors and shapes

While the “golden” and “green” OA paths have now been known for some time in many places, the diamond option is currently experiencing increasing familiarity, not least because of the efforts and additional benefits listed above. In addition, other terms are also appearing in various contexts:

  • “Bronze” Open Access
    The “bronze” Open Access route describes publications that are freely accessible on the Internet without clear licensing. Although these publications can be freely read, they cannot be legally redistributed or reused due to the lack of licensing information.
  • Blue” Open Access
    The “blue” Open Access route is not uniformly used as a designation. It includes second publications in the form of postprints. However, different variants of the “green” route with an embargo or embargo period for second publication are also referred to as blue Open Access.
  • “Hybrid” Open Access
    The approach of “hybrid” Open Access does not follow the naming scheme of the color theory. What is meant here is the publication of articles in subscription journals, in which individual contributions are made Open Access by paying an additional publication fee.

A visual overview of different OA paths and colors is also provided by the publication Open Access Flavors. For further questions on OA terminology, it may also be worth taking a look at the OA glossary of the tub.

Open Access an der TUHH

The TUHH and the tub. have been committed to openness in science for many years. Among other things, the open access repository TORE has been offered since 2002. A publication fund has also been an integral part of the service offering for many years. In 2021, the TUHH was also able to successfully submit an application for the DFG funding program “Open Access Publication Costs”. This ensures additional support for OA publications by TU members (see also TORE).