I only just read the dueling December posts on the OASPA blog—the first an alarm-puller on the “growing emphasis” on green OA, which the signatories—a diverse lot, indeed—blamed Plan S for fanning (in part owing to its recently announced Rights Retention Strategy):

[G]reen has never been an ideal route to Open Access. It is wholly reliant upon precisely the model that the OA movement was trying to overturn – namely subscriptions. Driving green OA essentially drives subscription publishing, which we believe is not what Plan S funders are aiming to achieve. Green has been the workaround, not the desired end point.

Most of the commercial oligopolists signed—Wiley, Taylor & Francis, SAGE, and Springer-Nature—as did the two “nonprofit” university press bohemoths, Cambridge and Oxford. There were, too, a handful of British scholarly associations, including the Biochemical Society, IOP Publishing, and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Hindawi, the born-OA for-profit, signed too—but has since been swallowed whole by Wiley. The biggest surprise among the signers is Stuart Taylor, the Royal Society publishing director and force behind the praiseworthy Society Publishers’ Coalition.

For all its green-shaming indignation, the post is silent on the glaring problem with most gold OA: the APC. So noted Open Book Publishers’ Lucy Barnes in a comment off the post:

It’s remarkable that this post fails to mention APCs, instead falling back on vague references to ‘transformational agreements’ or ‘various models’. Any serious critique of Green OA (and imo there are particular issues with Green OA for books) has to reckon with how authors without access to funding can afford to cover 9,500-euro APCs (to use a pertinent example, given one of the signatories to this post) or how those who don’t have membership of an institution that has signed a ‘transformative agreement’ can otherwise afford to publish OA. It is disappoining to say the least that this post has swerved that problem.

Indeed. However, the post‘s APC avoidance—to return to the odd cast of signatories—could be due to the very real differences on the APC question among the endorsers. The Royal Society’s Stuart Taylor is a vocal APC skeptic, and has trumpeted altervatives like subscribe-to-open. The big commercial players and the two university presses, by contrast, are all in with APC/read-and-publish.

The inevitable riposte followed fast, authored by the head of COAR, Kathleen Shearer. She took issue, and rightly so, at the first post’s characterization of green as a shoddy workaround; publish-review-curate (PRC) models like COAR’s Pubfair framework, after all, are meant to replace, not work around, the existing VOR publishing paradigm. Shearer jumped on the APC omission too:

OA repositories (referred to as green OA in the blog) are central for achieving equitable open access to research outputs world wide. Many researchers around the world do not have the means to pay OA publishing fees (APCs), nor do their governments or institutions have money for transformational agreements. Justice, equity, and fairness are fundamental principles that need to be respected in the transition to full Open Access.

Bold in the original. My sympathies are with Shearer and team green, at least insofar as APCs are tethered to gold. But I share the preference of most scholars for a stable, formatted VOR in my daily practice—even if versioning, in my view, should be more widely supported, and even though I find the PRC model attractive too.

This split personality is reflected in the two OA initiatives I give my time to: mediastudies.press, a diamond publisher, and MediArXiv, a green, subject-specific repository.

So I watch the color wars with great and ambiguous interest. APC-free gold, which is to say diamond, is a desirable destination—to be joined, with luck and labor, to a thriving PRC movement down the road.

Stuart Taylor and Kathleen Shearer, in short, are both right. Between green and gold, who are the reds?