Bronze, Free, or Fourrée? An Open Access Commentary

By Dr Eamon Costello 

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Image by Rabenspiegel on Pixabay

fourrée (noun) A coin, most often a counterfeit, that is made from a base metal core that has been plated with a precious metal to look like its solid metal counterpart:

Open access journal articles have been posited as a special type of Open Educational Resource (OER) (Anderson, 2013). One that could be of particular use in graduate education. In theory, one could build an entire academic course of study around open access articles. Students would be be free to read, download, save and build upon the work contained in these articles. This freedom would be afforded to students as the articles would be open. The Creative Commons licensing architecture is one great enabler of this freedom, as it helps to make, and keep, intellectual works open. Freedom and openness are not simple synonyms however.

A recent large scale study (Piwowar et. al., 2018) has highlighted the presence of articles that are free to access from journal publisher websites, but that do not fall under traditional open access definitions. The term “bronze access” has been suggested to describe such articles. In a recent essay (Costello, 2019) I reflect on this term, and also that used by the publishers themselves, which often describe such articles as “free”. The language we use is important, for it can contain value judgments about phenomena. This essay draws on the language of the open source and open access movements to attempt to examine who these free articles best serve, and how we might critically evaluate them from a framework of openness.

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Anderson, T. (2013). Open access scholarly publications as OER. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 14(2), 81–95. DOI

Costello, E. (2019). Bronze, free, or fourrée: an open access commentary. Science Editing, 6(1), 69-72. DOI :

Piwowar, H., Priem, J., Larivière, V., Alperin, J. P., Matthias, L., Norlander, B., … Haustein, S. (2018). The State of OA: A large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles. PeerJ, 6, e4375.  DOI