One key concern of scholars and scientists is to have their results published, because only then does their work and their knowledge achieve visibility and recognition in the scientific community. For a long time, publishing in closed-access print media – be they journals, books, or edited volumes – was the only way of permanently recording and disseminating scientific and scholarly information. The advent of the internet and open access (OA) led to new publication possibilities, and they, in turn, have raised new issues for authors. In what follows, some of these issues will be addressed.

Financing Open Access publications

First of all, one must distinguish between the two most important OA strategies: publishing in an OA journal or with an OA publisher, and self-archiving in an institutional or disciplinary OA repository. Primary publication under OA conditions is also referred to as the “gold road” to OA, while (self-)archiving works that have already been, or will subsequently be, published elsewhere is known as the “green road”.

As a rule, no costs are incurred by authors when they self-archive documents in an institutional or disciplinary repository. The situation is different in the case of some OA journals. According to a study conducted by Solomon and Björk (2012), approximately 26% of OA journals use publication fees as a form of financing. Scholars and scientists who wish to publish their works in an OA journal should enquire in advance whether this form of financing is used and, if yes, how high the publication fees are. It usually helps to take a look at the journal website (an overview of OA journals is provided by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or the Electronic Journals Library (EZB). When there are many OA journals in a particular subject area, this can be quite an arduous task. Via the web page “Cost Effectiveness for Open Access Journals”, those interested in publishing in an OA journal can find out the relationship between the costs (amount of the publication fees) and the benefits (average citation rates) of publishing articles in various OA journals. By the way, the web page “Journal Cost-Effectiveness” offers a similar tool for closed-access journals. It enables the fees for using the journals and the average citation rates of articles to be compared.

Possibilities of refinancing Open Access costs

Some OA publishers offer the option of institutional “membership”, which is similar to a discount model. Institutions pay an annual fee for membership, thereby enabling their members to publish articles in the journal in question free of charge or for a reduced fee during that year. As a rule, the point of contact for authors is the library of their institution. If a university has a publication fund from which these so-called article processing charges (APCs) can be paid, it is also usually administered by the library.

In addition to financing research, some funding organisations also bear the costs of publishing articles in scholarly journals and other publications. DFG-funded researchers can apply for a publication grant that can also be used to cover APCs. The Volkswagen Foundation pays the publication costs incurred by the projects it funds, and it expects funding recipients to provide open access to their publications. International funding organisations such as the Wellcome Trust also pay publication fees that may be charged for OA publications generated by Trust-funded projects; publication costs for OA articles generated by projects funded under the EU framework programme Horizon 2020 are also reimbursed.

It is generally worthwhile to check the funding organisation’s funding guidelines or to enquire directly with the organisation.

Impact factor and the recognition of Open Access publications

The impact and visibility of scientific and scholarly publications play an important role in enhancing the reputation, and therefore the career prospects, of individual scholars and scientists. Studies have revealed that the citation frequency of OA publications is usually much higher than that of closed-access publications. Overviews can be found, for example, in the Open Citation Bibliography and in in Alma Swan’s meta-study “Review of Studies on Open Access Impact Advantage” (Swan, 2010). Moreover, OA journals have impact factors that are frequently higher than those of comparable closed-access journals.

The increasing public endorsement of OA by many scientific and scholarly institutions, and the recommendations of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) and the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) that more work results should be made digitally usable, will bring about a change of attitude – also towards OA contributions. Renowned research organisations such as the Max Planck Society and the Helmholtz Association pro-actively support the open access idea, and research funders such as the German Research Foundation (DFG) request funded scholars and scientists to provide OA to their research results. Further information on scholarly and scientific institutions’ positions on OA can be found here.

The Swiss National Science Foundation’s (SNSF) Regulations on information, valorisation and rights to research results contain provisions regarding the provision of OA to scientific and scholarly publications generated by SNSF-funded projects, whereby authors are required to provide gold or green OA to these works.

The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) requires all project leaders and collaborators to make their peer-reviewed research freely accessible online and supports them in doing so (FWF Open Access Policy).

Safeguarding your own rights

Authors who wish to make their works openly accessible should observe a number of legal framework conditions. It is crucial that the authors themselves have the right to exploit their works online. This is not necessarily the case where the works have already been published in closed access. The legal framework conditions that apply to primary publications (in the sense of the gold road to OA) and self-archiving (in the sense of the green road) differ in certain respects.

Self-archiving of closed access publications in repositories

Most publishers permit the self-archiving of works in institutional or disciplinary repositories. The SHERPA/ROMEO listings [interner link] provide an overview of the self-archiving policies of a large number of journal publishers. In many cases, the author’s final post-refereed version (accepted manuscript) or the final version as it appears in the journal (publisher’s version) may be used. Ideally, however, publishing agreements should be drawn up in such a way that authors secure the right to archive their works in freely accessible online repositories or on their own institution’s document server. When concluding a publishing agreement, authors should endeavour to avoid granting exclusive rights of use [int. link urheberr. engl.] to the publisher, because otherwise they will no longer have any online exploitation rights in their own works. Ideally, they should grant the publisher only non-exclusive rights for the intended types of use. If this is not possible, and if no alternative publishing option is available, authors can consider attaching an addendum to the publishing agreement in order to reserve a non-exclusive right to deposit the work in an OA repository. A number of addenda to publishing agreements are now available on the internet.

Primary publication in Open Access journals

The situation is different in the case of the primary publication of scholarly and scientific works in OA journals or other OA media. As a rule, OA journals and publishers allow the works to be archived in a repository with proper acknowledgement of the source of the primary publication. Hence, when choosing a suitable OA journal for the publication of an article, other parameters play a role. For the most part, these parameters are the same for both closed-access and OA journals. They include the thematic focus of the journal, the type of quality assurance employed, the journal’s prestige in the discipline, and, where applicable, the licensing conditions under which the articles are made available and the amount of any publication fees that may be charged.

Self-archiving preprints in repositories

Besides the aforementioned possibilities of making works that have already been published in a closed-access or OA journal available to the public via a repository, it is also possible to deposit hitherto unpublished works (preprints) in a repository as a way of making them publicly available for the first time. In this case, the authors usually have the possibility of retaining the exclusive rights in their works and granting the repository operator only a non-exclusive right of use for the purpose of making the documents publicly available online. Alternatively, authors can make their works available under an open content licence.

Licensing of works made available to the public in Open Access

On the basis of open content licences, authors can specify the conditions under which a work that is made available in OA can be used by third parties. The granting of certain rights of use on the basis of such licences facilitates law enforcement in the case of misuse and gives the users explicit indications of how the work can be re-used. At the same time, the author retains the possibility of permitting in separate contracts further uses that go beyond those specified in the licence.


Solomon, D.J. & Björk, B.-C. (2012). A study of open access journals using article processing charges. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63 (8), pp. 1485–1495. doi:10.1002/asi.22673.

Swan, A. (2010). The Open Access citation advantage: Studies and results to date. Truro, UK: Key Perspectives Ltd. Online: