Open Access

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Open Access ( English for open access ) is the free access to scientific literature and other materials in the Internet . Publishing a scientific document under Open Access conditions gives anyone permission to read, download, save, link, print and thus use this document free of charge. In addition,userscan begrantedadditional usage rightsvia free licenses , which can enable them to reuse and continue to use, duplicate, distribute or even change the documents.

The scientific specialist literature can be freely accessible articles in electronic journals , preprints or online versions of articles in books and journals ( postprints ) that are stored by scientists on the servers of free electronic journals , university or institutional archives, subject-related servers or made freely available on their private websites. Open Access also includes making available primary and metadata , source texts and digital reproductions .


Under the pressure of the rising prices for scientific publications and at the same time stagnating or shrinking budgets in the libraries during the journal crisis, an international open access movement has emerged since the beginning of the 1990s . The central demand of this movement is that scientific publications as results of publicly funded research should in turn be made available to this public free of charge. The reason given is that the previous publication structures represented a privatization of knowledge financed by the general public. Through open access should be prevented that this knowledge must be re-financed by the general public repurchased by the publishers who have received through the publication rights of use. The open access movement also aims to narrow the digital divide . Among other things, scientists with a low budget should be able to obtain scientific results and participate in the discourse.

Public Library of Science open access logo

It was only with the development of the Internet, electronic publishing and the rapid and simple dissemination of documents that the question of free access to scientific information became topical. Previously, the prerequisites and feasibility were limited by the technical framework. In the 1990s, under the heading of electronic publishing (online publishing), the first German-language guidebook for publishing on the Internet for scientists who u. a. the different services - e-mail, news, Usenet - are described. In the mid-1990s, many specialist publishers switched to making their journals available in parallel or exclusively electronically. Since then, students and academics have been able to read and print out these articles on the library or institute computers if their institutions pay the license fees for these journals.

The open access movement has its predecessors in the preprint and dissertation servers of the 1990s. It is based on the assessment that scientists did not publish in the overwhelming number of cases for commercial interests, but that publication as a means of documentation and communication is part of their research and teaching activities.

Another starting point for the demand for new publication structures was the magazine crisis . This term is used to describe a development that primarily took place in the STM (Science, Technology, Medicine) area. The proportion of literature available to readers has steadily decreased as the number of publications increased. As a result of the magazine crisis, publishers such as BMC (2000) and PLoS (early 2001) were founded.

In 2001, initiated by a conference in Budapest organized by the Open Society Institute in November 2001, a number of well-known scientists, including Michael Eisen ( Public Library of Science ) and Rick Johnson ( Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition , SPARC), founded the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) and adopted a declaration on February 14, 2002, in which it a. means: "All literature that scientists publish without expecting to be paid for it should be freely accessible on the Internet." This conference and the resulting BOAI is seen as a starting point for the Open Access movement because it is for the first time the different people and existing initiatives were brought together. However, the appeal only refers to ensuring free access to journal articles for which the authors have not received any payment, who have previously undergone a peer review process and which should then be made freely available on the Internet in parallel.

On April 11, 2003, in Bethesda, Maryland, discussions were held about the possibilities of better integration of those involved in the publication process, and the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing was published in June .

The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Scientific Knowledge of October 2003 is a declaration that takes up the content of the Budapest Declaration and the Bethesda Declaration and defines the goals of the Open Access movement in an expanded manner. The declaration was signed by all important German research institutions, such as B. the German Research Foundation (DFG), the University Rectors' Conference , the Max Planck Society , the Fraunhofer Society , the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (BBAW), the German Initiative for Network Information (DINI) and the Ministry of Science and Research of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia , which had founded its own initiative with DiPP . In addition, international organizations such as B. Open Source Initiative (OSI), SPARC or European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN . The Berlin Declaration goes well beyond the demands of the Budapest Open Access Initiative declaration. It is seen as the conclusion of the goal formulation of the movement and as a starting point in technical and organizational terms. Since the Berlin conference there have been follow-up conferences every year.

Open access strategies

The two most important publication paths of Open Access are also referred to as the "Golden" and "Green" paths. They are sometimes viewed as competing, but mostly complementary, models: primary publishing and parallel publishing. These two strategies were drafted at the 2002 Budapest Conference. The terms "golden" and "green way" go back to the cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad .

Golden way

The “golden path” is the primary publication of the academic text in an open access medium that follows the conditions of open access. These are mainly open access journals which, like conventional journals, use a peer review process. The Directory of Open Access Journals , a directory for Open Access journals, lists 13,359 journals (as of June 6, 2019), of which around 77.8% are searchable at article level (10,389 journals with a total of 4,055,501 articles). According to estimates (based on Ulrich's Periodicals Directory ) there are a total of around 28,000 active scientific journals that use a peer review process (as of August 2012), so around 35% of all peer-reviewed journals would be "Open Access". The publication of monographs in an open access publisher is also assigned to the “golden path”. Most of the publishers organized in the “Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Universitätsverlage” have an Open Access orientation. Publication in printed form can take place in parallel to the electronic publication of books. These printed editions are then usually chargeable. With the OAPEN Library, a library of reviewed open access monographs is available for the first time. The focus is currently on publications from the humanities, social and social sciences.

Green way

The “green way” is parallel publication , secondary publication or self-archiving , which can take place on private websites, institute websites or on document servers. The authors save a copy of their essay or monograph that they have submitted to the publisher in a publicly accessible format on one of the infrastructure elements mentioned. The non-standardized self-archiving is increasingly being supplemented and replaced by archiving in institutional repositories . These documents published in the green way are often preprints or postprints . A peer review has only taken place in the case of postprints. Primary data can also be made accessible to the public via the Green Path. When archiving documents on document servers, a distinction is made between two different forms, depending on the type of repository in question. Institutional repositories are operated by an institution (e.g. a university) and are mostly interdisciplinary, while disciplinary repositories cover certain subject areas, but are cross-institutional. A well-known example of a disciplinary repository and also one of the oldest is arXiv .

The SHERPA / RoMEO list , which is published by the SHERPA organization , lists publishers according to their guidelines with regard to copyrights and parallel publication and distinguishes four different categories, depending on whether the self-archiving of preprints and postprints, only preprints, only from postprints or not allowed at all.

The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) registers the operators of these repositories and developed a protocol for metadata, OAI-PMH , which is widely used. Various services use this protocol for metadata harvesting, for example the OAIster search engine from the University of Michigan , Scirus from Elsevier or the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE).

Gray way

A few experts define a "gray" path. “The 'gray path' describes the publication of gray literature , that is, publications that are not available from bookshops . In the scientific field, this includes abstract collections, seminar and diploma theses, dissertations, conference reports and similar documents. These documents are usually not peer reviewed. "

Hybrid publishing

As a hybrid publishing a publication variant is called, Access Version Open is also published a paid printed version when provided in addition to the online. The freely accessible online version increases the findability by search engines and thus the visibility. Publishers hope that this will result in higher sales of the print variant. Hybrid publishing is therefore both an open access strategy and an open access “business model”. This model is used on the one hand for monographs, but above all for magazine publications. A single article that appears in a subscription journal can be published in an open access manner by paying an additional fee. This practice, also known as double dipping, enables the publisher to earn twice, as in addition to the ongoing subscription costs for the journal, the publication fees for the open access publication must also be paid by the library and the authors.


The term “bronze open access” goes back to a study from 2018 in which a large number of open access articles were analyzed. It is used for those scientific articles that are freely accessible on the publisher's website, but are not expressly published under a free license. This means that there are no re-use options for this content beyond read-only access and no guaranteed long-term availability . The study also showed that among the examined articles the proportion of bronze open access was the largest compared to all other subtypes.

Open access for primary data

Scientific primary data can be integrated into the scientific communication process in undreamt-of dimensions and quality through technical developments. The Berlin Declaration also includes free access to data. Some of the data are available as independent collections, others are indirect, e.g. B. via links in publications.

Open access for books

The term open access, which initially mainly referred to articles in specialist journals, is being expanded through the publication of monographs under open access conditions. For example, the European Union- funded project OAPEN, which emerged from the collaboration of several university publishers , plans to make books from the humanities and social sciences freely accessible. This is to prevent the sciences, in which communication takes place mainly through monographs and less through specialist articles, from developing a structural disadvantage compared to sciences in which the open access strategies have already become more widespread.

Digital copies

Many publishers are trying to open up additional business areas by digitizing their older collections. Some do this in cooperation with the libraries, for example in projects like DigiZeitschriften . Some major publishers have scanned their holdings on their own, although they had no rights to it before the second basket was passed under German copyright law.

Open access for cultural assets

The Berlin Declaration - following the ECHO Charter - explicitly addresses the cultural assets in archives, libraries and museums. They too should be accessible free of charge and reusable according to the same principles as the scientific specialist literature. However, this leads to conflicts in the area of image rights . Independent projects complain about the so-called copyfraud of the institutions that preserve cultural assets, which in their view are remonopolizing works in the public domain by claiming non-existing copyrights. On the other hand, cultural heritage institutions and museums in particular are fighting to be allowed to show images of protected works of fine art in their collections on the Internet and to share them via social networks.

Business models

There are also costs associated with the digital publication of documents, even if they are not as high as with printed works. In the traditional publishing industry, scientific publications are defined by scientific publishers as usable market goods, while in Open Access scientists, research sponsors, institutions and libraries sometimes take the place of the publishers and thus change the production chain of the publication market. There are different models for financing Open Access publications, some of which are already well established.

Publication fees

A large number of Open Access journals charge their authors with publication fees , which are usually based on the process costs that the publisher incurs on average for each online publication. They are also known as Article Processing Charge (APC) and the business model as the author pays model . In a study by the Kaufmann-Wills-Group it was found that this financing model for Open Access journals is less than 50% and thus less than the value for conventional journals. There are major differences between the individual disciplines: In those sciences in which a publication fee , often in the form of a printing subsidy , is also levied for conventional journals (for example in the life sciences), the proportion is higher; it is lower for humanities journals. Some journals waive the fees for authors if they belong to financially disadvantaged institutions.

A number of funding organizations encourage or oblige their researchers to publish open access and take over part or all of the publication fees, so that the budgets of the working groups and institutes are not burdened or burdened less.

The German Research Foundation is supporting scientific universities with an "Open Access Publishing" funding program that runs until the end of 2020 to set up publication funds from which the universities can finance the fees for publications by university members in Open Access journals.

Institutional membership

In the membership model, research institutions or their libraries pay an annual fee as members in order to enable their scientists to publish their research results in an open access journal free of charge or at a reduced price. A well-known example of this membership model is the British publisher BioMed Central . The line between subscription and institutional membership is not always very clear. For example, a subscription to journals published by Oxford University Press (OUP) may include a discount on the publication fees of OUP's open access journals.

Hybrid financing models

In hybrid financing models, both open access articles and articles with restricted access are published within a journal. The publisher is sticking to the original subscription model, but also offers the authors the option of activating the article as Open Access for a fee. If the authors do not pay the extra fees, the article will only be submitted for a fee. This hybrid model does not initially mean any financial relief for the libraries. In July 2004, the science publisher Springer was one of the first publishers to introduce the hybrid model under the name of Open Choice . For the activation to Open Access, 3000 US dollars per publication are required. Several other publishers followed this approach and charge fees between 1,000 and 5,000 US dollars (as of September 2008).

Further financing models

In the “community fee model”, articles published by a specialist society, for example, are financed through membership fees. Other publishers use the institutional infrastructure of libraries and universities and are thus cross-financed by them. Selling print products can also help finance online publication.


There is currently no uniform logo for the Open Access movement. At the Open Access Day on February 14, 2008, the draft of the Public Library of Science was taken up, the Berlin Conference of the Max Planck Society also uses a key symbolism. The logo of the information platform is used by many universities and libraries in Germany .


The demand for Open Access is supported by the fact that heavily subsidized research results from universities and other publicly supported research institutions are freely accessible and not sold at high prices : Open Access is “the appropriate answer to the crisis in scientific literature, which is not only affecting journal prices has an impact, but also leads to the fact that an anthology is subsidized in four ways by the public purse and the state buys back its own research results from commercial publishers ”.

Open Access is “(still) a long way from being everyday scientific publishing: It mainly involves specialized discourses in some particularly committed disciplines and (scientific) political declarations of intent (such as the Berlin Declaration) that are only anchored in practice must become so that scientific knowledge can actually be the common good as which it is financed ”.

One of the barriers to online publishing with open access is the academic reward system. It is also problematic that z. For example, pure online journals have so far only rarely been indexed and indexed in traditional databases. And for the libraries there is the question of how to collect and store the data.

There are big differences between the disciplines. With the exception of some institutes and online journals in the field of educational research, free online publishing is not a matter of course. In scientific-technical disciplines, on the other hand, especially computer science and physics, free and free publishing on the Internet has a far more important, if not decisive, role.

Arguments from proponents of Open Access

In addition to the financial arguments already mentioned, proponents cite other reasons that speak in favor of a wider spread of Open Access:

  • Verifiability : If research data and the research results based on it are openly accessible, they can be verified by more people.
  • Higher citation frequency : Open Access publications are read and cited more often.
  • Enabling and accelerating scientific (international) cooperation : For example, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous publishers and institutions enabled open access to all publications relating to the virus and the pandemic in order to accelerate the fight against the pandemic.
  • Fast relevance check possible : When searching for information, it is often not possible to accurately assess whether a work is relevant to your own information needs, if the title, abstract, table of contents and keywords are given. In this case, only a look at the work itself helps. If this look at the work is not free, there are costs even for the work that do not affect your own information needs.
  • Better findability : Open Access publications are also freely accessible to search engines and web crawlers . The indexing of these publications is therefore not only based on the metadata provided by the publisher, but also on the full texts, which can lead to more precise machine processing and better findability.


Compulsory publication in OA journals

Some scientists and authors of scientific papers see the increasing subsidization of free publications by science sponsors and organizations as an unlawful compulsion for this type of publication. According to the critics, the author is so restricted that he can no longer freely decide in which way he would like to publish the results of his scientific work. The authors and signatories of the so-called Heidelberg Appeal take a similar view, who see the open support of the Alliance of Science Organizations for open access as "far-reaching encroachments on the freedom of the press and publication" or Uwe Jochum, who sums up that in the science newspaper Recherche What "began as an attempt to find a way out of the journal crisis" has under the hand "has become a project of the total transformation of science", at the end of which a fully digitized research infrastructure is to stand. The allegations are rejected by the scientific organizations that are part of the alliance.

Conflicts of Interest

In the case of Open Access publications, in many cases the authors or their institutions have to pay publication fees in order to cover the costs of digital provision (“author pays model”). This raises the question of which author, with limited funds and applying which criteria, will benefit from a publication subsidized by the scientific organization. If these criteria are (openly or covertly) position in the scientific hierarchy , anciency , power or the like, then there may be a conflict with the actually decisive criterion of proof of scientific quality through external assessment. A similar conflict arises when publication is subsidized by (and on behalf of) companies.

In addition, there may be conflicts of interest with regard to expert opinion standards. Again and again there are disputes - not only with digital publications - about the quality and neutrality of reports. In connection with digital publications, the main fear is that reviewers will also allow publications that do not actually meet the standards to pass, "since a fee-based publication model offers an incentive for low rejection rates." The following are two examples of conflicts of interest in review standards called.

In April 2009 a group of scientists published results in The Open Chemical Physics Journal , according to which the detection of nanothermite , an experimental explosive, in unreacted and reacted state in samples of the dust from the World Trade Center had been successful. The article appeared in an open access journal of the Bentham Science Publishing Group. According to the authors, a peer review process took place, which according to the publisher is standard for the journal in question. The article, which attracts a lot of attention from supporters of conspiracy theories , as it is regarded as the first evidence of a controlled demolition, has been massively criticized in terms of content. Two editors-in-chief of the journal resigned on the matter, including a. due to massive dissatisfaction with the handling of publication and peer review by the publisher.

Three months later, another editor-in-chief of one of the publisher's open access journals had to resign. The magazine had offered to publish a joke article after allegedly peer review and for a fee of US $ 800. The incident sparked a discussion about the review standards of open access journals that publish scientific articles for a cash payment.

Problems with the findability and long-term archiving of documents

Beyond the points mentioned, it is criticized that the findability of Open Access documents and their long-term archiving represent problems that have not yet been resolved. Proponents oppose this by saying that the description of the documents with the help of metadata, the possibilities of modern full-text searches and the networking of open access repositories make scientific publications easier to find and make available quickly than with printed media. With the steadily decreasing costs for electronic storage and the systematic development of national and international archive systems, the problem of long-term archiving is also becoming less important.

Poor peer review process

Journalist and biologist John Bohannon tested the trustworthiness of open access journals by submitting a specially written, flawed study to 304 open access journals. Of these, 157 journals accepted the work, 98 rejected it. 36 journals noticed the obvious scientific errors, in 16 the editors wanted to publish the study anyway. The Directory of Open Access Journals founded in 2004 originally only had formal criteria for including a journal in the directory. In 2014, the criteria for admission to the DOAJ were tightened, so that journals that were registered according to the old criteria up to March 2014 have to apply for re-admission.


The commercialization of Open Access is therefore criticized (e.g. through the model of publication fees or in the form of nationwide consortia for combined subscriptions to scientific journals, including a linked option of Open Access publication), as this reinforces the dominance of publishers that are already dominant in the market and the spiral of costs in the scientific publication market would continue to spiral.

See also



Web links

Commons : Open Access  - collection of images, videos and audio files
  • OLPE-OPEN the STM share of the journals accessible via the personal national license as well as a large number of hybrids and open access journals, indexed alphabetically and thematically.

German speaking

English speaking

Individual evidence

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  4. z. B. in: Jens Bleuel: Online Publishing on the Internet. Electronic magazines and books . Edition Ergon, Pfungstadt / Bensheim 1994, updated edition 2000 (PDF; 570 kB)
  5. Gerald Spindler (ed.): Legal framework for open access publications. University of Göttingen , March 2006, Universitätsverlag Göttingen, doi: 10.17875 / gup2006-115 .
  6. a b c Birgit Schmidt: On the “golden” path? Alternative business models for open access primary publications . In: Journal of Librarianship and Bibliography. 54, No. 4-5, 2007, pp. 177-182.
  7. ^ Budapest Open Access Initiative
  8. Katja Mruck, Gradmann & Mey, 2004, paragraph 5; or Budapest Open Access Initiative: Frequently Asked Questions. Archived from the original on March 17, 2008 ; Retrieved April 23, 2010 .
  9. ^ Jean-Claude Guédon: The “Green” and “Gold” Roads to Open Access: The Case for Mixing and Matching . (PDF) In: Serials Review , Volume 30, Issue 4, 2004, pages 315–328
  10. Kristin Mosch: Introduction to Open Access . In: Science Management: Journal for Innovation. Special . No. 1 , 2006, ISSN  0947-9546 , p. 2–3 ( online [PDF]).
  11. ^ Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing
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  14. - Global Serials Directory - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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  27. Cf. Klaus Graf : Cultural property must be free! In: Art Chronicle. Volume 60, No. 11, 2007, pp. 507-510, doi: 10.11588 / artdok.00000529 .
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  29. (science management special 1/2006)
  30. ^ The Facts About Open Access. A study of the financial and non-financial effects of alternative business models for scholarly journals. ( Memento of June 30, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF)
  31. Information on the “Open Access Publishing” funding program. DFG, March 1, 2019, accessed on June 2, 2019 .
  32. Leaflet Publish Open Access. In: DFG form 12.20 - 02/17. DFG, 2017, accessed on June 2, 2019 .
  33. cf. Summary In: Klaus Graf : Scientific e-publishing with “Open Access” - initiatives and resistance . In: Zeitblicke , 2 (2), 2003
  34. Mruck, grade man & Mey (2004) (paragraph 23)
  35. cf. z. B. Bo-Christer Björk: Open access to scientific publications - an analysis of the barriers to change f ( Memento of December 2, 2010 in the Internet Archive ). Information Research, 9 (2), January 2004, Paper 170
  36. cf. Keller, 2003, paragraph 42
  37. Sandra Schaffert (June 2004): Free online literature on educational research . p @ psych e-zine, 9
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  45. so z. B. Uwe Jochum (2009): Copyright without rights. How the state and bureaucracy expropriate scientists using Open Access . In: Lettre International No. 87, 2009, pp. 7-12.
  46. ^ Roland Reuss and others: For freedom of publication and the protection of copyrights .
  47. Uwe Jochum: "Open Access" - a wrong path . ( Memento from February 21, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) The attempt to repair current scientific publications turns out to be more expensive than the previous model.
  48. Open Access: Joint Declaration of the Science Organizations of March 25, 2009
  49. a b c Information platform Open Access: reservations about OA. Free University of Berlin, University of Bielefeld, University of Göttingen, University of Konstanz, archived from the original on February 6, 2015 ; accessed on February 15, 2017 .
  50. ^ Website of the Bentham Science publishing house. ( Memento of the original from March 5, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Under Important to know for Authors there is the statement: "All submitted articles undergo a fast but rigorous peer-review procedure (...)" @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  51. Denis G. Rancourt: (Another) Editor in Chief resigned over the Harrit et al. nanothermite paper, January 7, 2011
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  56. DOAJ - A note about Reapplications . May 29, 2014; accessed on January 30, 2015.
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