English Open Access

Overview Open Access

This article provides an overview on Open Access.

Should I make my research digitally accessible or rather go the classical way of a publication in print via a renowned publisher? It often seems as if researchers have to choose between one path or the other. Yet it has long been clear that digital publications (eBooks) are now part of a certain standard and will become more and more important in the coming years. And in fact, the dividing line is not as sharply drawn as just outlined.

Zum Artikel: Open Access. Ein Einstieg

What are the benefits to open access publications?

Publishers have long since recognized that they must help shape the digital transformation – if only to ensure their own economic survival. Thus, in many cases, an eBook publication is often placed alongside the classic book publication. Some renowned journals publish exclusively digitally. At the same time, much of the research is still surrounded by a paywall. With the demand for free information material for users, open access publications thus seem to be the silver bullet of a public-oriented and progressive research community. 

We would like to give you a first overview in this article on what challenges and opportunities the decision for Open Access holds for you. 

Is the open access publications worth it?

We want to take a closer look at this question. First, we must distinguish between different publishing cultures across different disciplines. While some publish their research results more collaboratively as articles in journals, there are other disciplines, such as the humanities, cultural studies, and social sciences, in which longer monographic publications (still) play a decisive role. 

If you are thus faced with such a decision with your PhD thesis, two questions may help: How important is it to you personally to hold a printed book in your hands at the end? And how accepted are open access publications of dissertations or postdoctoral theses in your department? This varies greatly from discipline to discipline. If you are unsure, ask your supervisors about this question! Seek discussion with postdoc friends or professors in your department. Most university libraries have now also created positions for Open Access staff who can advise you. Increasingly, universities are also offering the option of publishing the qualifying paper for a fraction of the (publisher’s) cost as a free online offering (optionally with an limited number in print) through the university library. This is especially a good way for people who do not want to stay in academia to acquire the title without having to pay printing subsidies and editing costs. 

Disciplines in which results appear cumulatively in journals are certainly open to open access in principle. In disciplines that traditionally rely on monographic publications, however, pure open access publication via the library server could possibly send an unfavorable signal for one’s own academic career. 

Do publishers offer open access publishing?

While some publishers now offer an eBook edition to accompany the print version as part of their offerings almost as standard, open access publishing is very costly. The reason for this is that publishers have to make up for the loss of revenue via the large subsidy – the loss they would normally have made on the sale of the book. There are increasingly more national funding strategies for this (see below: Who promotes open access?). 

Once you have received a publisher’s commitment, ask the editorial office directly if there is a targeted open access option and what the costs are. After all, this would be the best of both worlds: the name of a well-known publishing house on the cover – the book also available for download free of charge! Whether and how this option is possible depends on the open access strategies of the publishers. Some, for example, offer a free PDF with the publication, while others offer the option of making the book available free of charge for an additional fee and after a deadline. These different open access strategies are also known as the golden or green road. 

Who promotes open access?

Seek advice from your trusted advisors at the university, the staff of your library, and the publisher’s editorial office. Often there are funding pots at the libraries, and there may be money available through third-party funding from your community or network – finally, there is the possibility of specifically acquiring funding for an open access publication.

On the following page you will find bundled open access information from the German Research Foundation (DFG). In Switzerland and Austria, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) for the promotion of scientific research and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), respectively, offer funding models for research projects. 

Further information

Be sure to check out the website of the Open Access Network. In addition to information and research material, you will also find important event information and network tips on events and recent developments. The aim is to provide reliable information on practical, organizational and general legal issues relating to open access and to communicate these to the academic community. We have used the so-called Berlin Declaration on open access from 2003 as a definition.