Jump to main navigation Skip to Content

DFG Logo: back to Homepage Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

What is open access?





Open access is the term given to access granted to research literature 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. 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”.

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.

Both golden and green publications should ideally be archived on public infrastructures and be accessible, as well as obtain an open access licence in order to ensure legal access over the long term.

There are currently two different ways of archiving documents 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.

(Source: Externer Linkhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_access).

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. These publications can also be used for new kinds of research methods and for analyses such as text and data mining.

The status of electronic publication varies between disciplines and its development is still in flux. Yet 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. 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 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 require payment upfront and do not offer the same services.

If an article is published in a “predatory journal”, does that mean it is a bad article?

The quality of an academic paper or conference paper can only ever be judged based on the individual publication. In many subject areas, the peer review process serves to ensure that an article is of good quality. If an article is published without having been peer reviewed, this does not necessarily mean that it is a bad article. It simply means that it has not been assessed by an other researcher - it has only been published based on the expertise of the author.

The DFG is careful to ensure that publications undergo a recognised quality assurance procedure. Open peer review, post publication peer review and community peer review, etc. are generally recognised as acceptable quality assurance procedures in addition to a traditional peer review, provided that the process includes verification and correction opportunities either before or after publication.

How do you recognise a “predatory journal”?

The decision on where to publish should always be an informed decision (see also Guideline 15: Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice (2019)). The “Think Check Submit” initiative, which is supported by publishing industry associations and library associations, gives researchers a helpful checklist to assess the trustworthiness and reliability of a scholarly journal.

An overview of gold open access publications can also be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Authors should check journals which are not listed in this directory of quality-assured open access journals for various aspects concerning reliability, such as editorship, quality assurance procedures, location of the publishing house etc. The open access officer at the author’s university may also provide assistance on this issue.

What action does the DFG take against “predatory journals”?

The DFG takes active measures against predatory journals at various levels.
The “Guidelines for Safeguarding Good Research Practice”, which were published by the DFG in 2019, also contain explicit advice on choosing a publication medium. All members of the DFG are obliged to implement these guidelines.

From a science policy perspective, in 2018 the DFG issued a statement on the quality assurance of scientific publications together with eight partners from the Alliance of Science Organisations.

In terms of project funding, the DFG included the criteria for quality assurance in relevant funding programmes, for example in the “Open Access Publication Funding” programme.

A number of open access quality assurance measures are also already in place at universities and universities of applied sciences, which can be seen in the evaluation of the DFG’s “Open Access Publishing” funding programme (see graphic).

Existing open access quality assurance measures at universities and universities of applied science