Schmuckbild "Open-Access-Publikationskosten"

What is open access?


Open access is the term given to access granted to research publications and other materials online free of charge. A research document published under open access conditions may be read, downloaded, saved, linked to, printed and used by anybody at no cost. Contents must be licensed for reuse to ensure that open access is legal and in the interests of research. Specific licences (e.g. Creative Commons (CC) licences) grant certain rights to third parties to subsequently and continuously use, reproduce, disseminate and also amend the documents.

When research results are initially published in an open access medium, it is described as the “gold open access model”. This predominantly refers to open access journals which employ a peer review procedure in the same way as conventional journals. The initial publication of books and monographs in open access by a publishing house is included in the “gold open access model”.

“Diamond Open Access” refers to a business model for open-access first publications in which no fees are charged to either authors or readers. The publication infrastructure is provided by academic institutions or financed by professionally organised academic associations such as scholarly societies.

The "green open access model” is the parallel publication, secondary publication or self-archiving of articles which have already been published on private websites, the websites of institutions, publication servers or repositories free of charge. For this purpose, the authors save a copy of the article or monograph which they have submitted to the publishing house on one of the aforementioend infrastructure elements in a way which is accessible to the public. Non-standardised self-archiving on private websites has increasingly been supplemented and replaced by archiving on repositories operated by an institution. Sometimes preprints, which have generally not been subject to scientific quality assurance are also subsumed under the green open access model.

In order to ensure legally secure and long-term access, both gold and green publications should ideally be archived and accessible via public infrastructures and be provided with an open access licence that allows direct and free access as well as further use.

Diamond Open Access

The publication platform or journal is based at a public institution or is financed and maintained institutionally or cooperatively or by individual communities or scholarly societies. As a rule, no publication fees are charged here. Further use is clearly regulated based on the granting of licences.

Gold Open Access

The publication platform or journal exclusively offers the open access model. In some cases, fees are payable for publication. Further use is clearly regulated based on the granting of licences.

Green Open Access

Variant in which publications that appear in subscription journals are made publicly accessible retrospectively after a set period of time. Here, further utilisation is generally not legally regulated and is therefore difficult. Preprints are often attributed via this route, but they are not Green Open Access because they are first publications.

Hybrid Open Access

Under this model, authors are free to publish their articles either in open access, but with an article processing charge (APC), or according to the subscription model. Other fees are often due in addition to or instead of OA fees (submission charges, page and colour charges, etc.). The fees for hybrid open access publications are higher on average than for gold open access. Currently, parts of hybrid publishing portfolios are being transferred to OA via transformative agreements (e.g. in Germany Wiley, Springer and Cambridge University Press). Due to the business model and the existence of transformative agreements, the DFG only supports this access route if the charging of access and publication fees is handled through the agreements. For this reason, the distinction between gold and hybrid remains relevant in terms of funding.

Bronze Open Access

This enables content to be read but not further used or exploited because transfer is not permitted, either technically or legally. This form of access is not Open Access in the true sense of the word.

(Source: DFG Position Paper “Academic Publishing as a Foundation and Area of Leverage for Research Assessment. Challenges and Fields of Action”, p. 18)

There are currently two different ways of archiving publications on repositories: Institutional repositories are operated by institutions (for example a university) and mostly cover different subjects. Disciplinary repositories cover certain research areas but can be used by different institutions. An overview of the conditions for (self-)archiving journal articles in OA repositories (such as time limitations and permitted manuscript versions) is provided by the Sherpa Romeo database, which can be searched by publisher as well as by individual journal.


Benefits for research

The exchange of knowledge and the critical examination of results are vital aspects of research. This means that researchers must have access to the work of others and disseminate their own findings as widely as possible. However, high licence fees for electronic publications often make this exchange of knowledge difficult. The research data on which the published results are based also often cannot be represented in conventional media, or at least not in a form that is suitable for subsequent in-depth use. By contrast, online publications which are available free of charge (open access publications) and which have an appropriate licence (generally a CC licence) can be perused received, disseminated and reused without any restrictions. Providing they are available in the form of structured data (XML), these publications can also be used for new kinds of research methods and for analyses such as text and data mining.

Recent research suggests that open access publications are cited more frequently than conventional publications, and attract considerable attention from the academic community.

Caution: Predatory journals

The term “predatory journals” refers to journals which invite researchers to publish articles, often through aggressive advertising and a professional-looking appearance, in many cases specifically modelling their journal title, layout and website on established journals. Although publication is subject to payment of a fee, the quality assurance measures carried out by the publishing house are insufficient, misleading or not carried out at all. “Predatory publishers” often entice submissions using bulk e-mails. These e-mails are often personalised, and specifically focus on a person’s previous publications in order to enhance the impact of the advertisement.

The publishers of predatory journals give the impression of using the same publication fee-based business model which is used by many open access journals. Quality-assured open access journals however mostly levy this fee only after making the decision to accept a publication on the basis of the results of the peer review process. In most cases, predatory journals frequently require payment upfront and do not offer the same services.