Open Access in psychology

In keeping with the general trend, open access (OA) to scholarly and scientific literature has also gained ground and established itself in psychology, albeit via different routes.

Purely OA journals remain the exception in psychology. Some 200 journals with psychological content are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) (as of 1/2015). On the basis of this figure, the share of scholarly OA journals in psychology can be estimated at between five and ten percent. If one applies strict quality criteria, the share is probably considerably smaller. Of the 200 journals with psychological content that are covered by the DOAJ, only about 10 percent have an impact factor (Thomson Reuters) – a metric for the citation frequency of a journal, which, despite all criticism, continues to play an important role in the scientific community. This shows that it is still difficult to find purely OA journals among the psychology journals that – according to traditional criteria – are deemed to be “high-ranking”. However, this may change in the coming years in view of the increasing establishment of OA journals and the emergence of new assessment criteria (keyword: altmetrics).

Many scholarly publishers now offer hybrid models, which are also being increasingly used in psychology. As a rule, authors who wish to take the so-called gold road to OA must pay a fee to provide OA to their articles, the amount of which may vary greatly, depending, for example, on the type of article in question.
The green road to OA – that is, the self-archiving of preprints or postprints – is now widespread in psychology and is permitted by many publishers. However, although there are a few national, institutional, or disciplinary repositories, there are no central, internationally used repositories for psychology preprints and postprints, with the result that these OA documents are a relatively poorly tapped resource.

To a large extent, the scientific literature in psychology is to be found in scholarly journals. By contrast, books or conference papers play a lesser role. OA for scholarly monographs is still underdeveloped.

Open Access journals

Purely OA journals can traditionally be found on non-commercial platforms of scholarly societies, research organisations, universities, or disciplinary information centres. However, as the author-pays business model gains ground, an increasing number of traditional scholarly publishers and new, commercial OA publishers are offering purely OA journals. In what follows, some examples of journals from these market segments are presented.

Journals on non-commercial platforms (examples)

Europe’s Journal of Psychology – This journal is one of several OA journals currently published on the publishing platform PsychOpen, which is operated by the Leibniz Centre for Psychology Information (ZPID). The journal has been published continuously for over ten years now, and has developed from a student initiative into an internationally recognised scholarly journal of psychology. Authors are not charged publication fees.

Advances in Cognitive Psychology – Supported by a Polish university, this journal has been publishing contributions from the research areas of perception, language processing, attention, memory, and cognition since 2005. No publication fees are charged.

Forum Qualitative Research (FQR) – This international journal, which specialises in qualitative research methods, has been published since 1999 and is closely linked to the Freie Universität Berlin. Here, too, authors are not charged publication fees.

Journals published by traditional scholarly publishers (examples)

Archives of Scientific Psychology – First published in 2013, Archives of Scientific Psychology is the first, and to date the only, OA journal of the American Psychological Association (APA). Despite its young age and the fact that its publication volume is still small, this journal is remarkable because, for a long time, the APA was quite hostile to OA (cf. “Key players” below). The journal will eventually be financed via publication fees payable by the authors. However, these fees are being waived during the introductory phase.

Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling – Published by the German company Pabst Science Publishers, Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling is an example of the conversion of a traditional subscription-based journal to OA. Although the journal is published by a commercial publisher, authors are not charged publication fees.

Journals published by new OA publishers (examples)

Frontiers in Psychology – This journal is an example of a psychology journal published by a new, commercial OA journal. Six volumes of Frontiers in Psychology have been published to date. The journal is one of the few OA journals in psychology with an impact factor. Authors are charged publication fees.

PlosOne – The mega-journal PLOS ONE also belongs to the group of new, commercial OA journals. Although not a psychology journal as such, it features an increasing number of psychology articles. Authors do not have to pay publication fees to have their articles published.

Disciplinary repositories

At present, there are no major international disciplinary repositories in psychology. However, there are a number of repositories of regional significance, or multidisciplinary repositories that contain at least a substantial proportion of psychology documents. Compared to other disciplines, and also relative to the volume of potentially eligible documents, the volume of these repositories’ holdings is still comparatively small.

PsycDok – PsyDok is one of the few OA repositories in the world that specialises in psychology. In addition to preprints and postprints, it also contains a sizeable amount of so-called “grey literature”.

Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR) – This repository, which is operated by GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, contains over 30,000 documents from the social sciences, some of which are also assigned to psychology.

Cogprints – This archive contains documents from the cognitive-science-oriented sub-fields of various disciplines, including psychology.

Literature searches in Psychology

As of yet there are no databases or search engines that index only OA documents in psychology. However, at least there is one large, freely accessible psychological reference database that also links to the full texts, where available, namely PubPsych:

PubPsych – This freely accessible search portal for psychology content contains the metadata records of approximately 9,000 journal articles, books and book chapters, intervention programmes, research data, and psychodiagnostic tests from all sub-fields of psychology. Many records contain links to full texts, where available. Targeted filtering of OA documents is not yet possible.

PsychSpider – Anyone looking mainly for OA content should give this psychology search engine a try. If one restricts the search to the categories “Resources on the Internet”, “E-Journals” / Tests (Diagnostics)”, and “Departments”, many OA documents can be found.

BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine)  – This multidisciplinary search engine enables users to boost OA documents. By using the browsing function and limiting the search with the help of the Dewey Decimal Classification for psychology (ddc: 150), OA documents in psychology can be found.

Key players

Scholarly societies in psychology have not adopted a uniform position towards OA. As early as September 2004, the general assembly of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie (German Psychological Society, DGPs) voted in favour of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. However, the DGPs never formally signed the declaration. By contrast, for many years the internationally successful – and the world’s largest – psychology association, the American Psychological Association (APA), was not very open to OA. In 2007, for example, the then president of the APA, Sharon Stephens Brehm, was still warning that the existing publication system should be changed with caution. This reserve vis-à-vis OA is probably due not least to the fact that, as a commercial publisher, the APA itself publishes around 90 journals. However, in 2013 it brought out the first OA journal of its own (Archives of Scientific Psychology).

The most important psychology publisher in the German-speaking area, Hogrefe, has an OA programme entitled OpenMind, whereby authors are offered the option of paying a fee to provide OA to articles published in Hogrefe’s journals (hybrid model). However, the publisher does not operate any purely OA journals.

In Germany, the Leibniz Centre for Psychology Information (ZPID) is actively committed to OA in psychology. In 2012, it launched an OA publishing platform, PsychOpen, on which seven OA psychology journals are currently published. The platform recently started publishing OA books as well. A key objective of PsychOpen is to enhance the international visibility of European psychological research, taking into account European themes, theory traditions, and also different European languages. In addition to PsychOpen, the ZPID offers access to a range of other information products for psychology (see “Open Science” below).

Open Science

PsychData  – PsychData makes research data available for re-use by psychology researchers. Hosted and operated by the Leibniz Centre for Psychology Information (ZPID), and accredited by the German Data Forum (RatSWD), it documents, archives, and makes available to the public research data from all sub-fields of psychology, and it is currently the only research data centre that specialises in psychology.

Potsdam Mind Research Repository (PMR2) – This repository provides access to psychological publications together with the underlying research data and analysis scripts (frequently on the basis of the statistics software R).

Elektronisches Testarchiv (Electronic Test Archive) – This German-language archive is also hosted and operated by the Leibniz Centre for Psychology Information (ZPID). It makes freely accessible psychological tests available for research and teaching purposes.

PsychAuthors – This freely accessible ZPID-run database contains profiles and publication lists of German-speaking authors in psychology.

Open Science Framework – The Center for Open Science, which operates the Open Science Framework, an environment for the open exchange of documents, data, scripts, etc., is one of the most committed advocates of OA, also in psychology. Even though this initiative has a multidisciplinary orientation, it has a strong psychological base. In particular, the Reproducibility Project: Psychology, which is devoted to the replication of psychological experiments – something that is frequently neglected, or not taken note of, in the scientific community – is linked to the Open Science Framework.


Günther, A. (2013, Juli). Open-Access Publishing in Psychology and the PsychOpen Project. 13th European Congress of Psychology, Stockholm.


Content editor of this web page: Prof. Dr. Armin Grünter, ZPID.