Open Access in Political science

As in other social sciences and the humanities, Open Access (OA) is not widespread in the academic field of political science. The leading international journals in the countries where most research is done, such as the USA, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, are not open access. In fact, Open Access offerings tend to be limited to relatively minor journals which are more likely to be found in countries which are only gradually developing a tradition of research in political science, such as threshhold countries or Central European states. 

The fact that the situation is no better in Germany is particularly surprising when one considers that, since its establishment in the 1950s, political science here has had a special normative mandate to convey democracy as directly as possible to the widest possible audience, which should very much predispose it to OA. Yet the leading political science journals in Germany, such as the Zeitschrift fuer Politikwissenschaft, the Zeitschrift fuer Parlamentsfragen, the Politische Vierteljahresschrift and Internationale Beziehungen have not made use of the opportunities which OA would offer in this regard. The journal Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte (ApUZ) is, however, a notable exception. It appears as a supplement to Das Parlament , the weekly newspaper published by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale fuer politische Bildung, bpb), and it is completely and immediately OA. In this way, the bpb fulfils its role as a communication channel between science and the political public, albeit without making an explicit general commitment to the principle of OA in the process. In fact, when it comes to print publications, the bpb actually underpins the traditional publishing model by buying up the offerings of other publishing houses in order to make them available to the public with a new layout and at a more reasonable price.

As far as institutional repositories in the field of political science are concerned, the OA situation is mixed. Some chairs of political science have indeed developed an interest in OA, especially as a public-relations tool. However, what little OA there is tends to be limited to working papers or student theses. All in all, pragmatic considerations are predominant in this area and there are few signs of a general strategy on OA. For example, there is no indication that the German Society for Political Science (DGfP) has taken a stance on OA. On its website, all the items listed under Publications are toll-access. The American Political Science Association (ASPA), however, is currently planning to launch an OA journal.

The Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences (SAHS) supports the implementation of Open Access. It recommends its member societies and affilitated researchers to make their publications openly accessible Its goal is that all authors who publish inperiodicals subsidised by the academy will have the right to make their articles openly accessible. The SAHS therefore calls upon its member societies to obtain the necessary rights for their authors from the publishers. It is also conducting its own negotiations with these publishers. Positive results are already apparent.

On the whole, therefore, the observation that OA is most likely to be found in application-oriented contexts also holds true for political science. Because political science is per se a very application-oriented discipline, and one of its main objectives is the political education of as wide a public as possible, OA holds considerable potential for this field.

One general exception can be found in the heavily application-oriented area of political science, the so-called think tanks. Think tanks are public or private institutions dedicated to the analysis of political processes. They focus mainly on concrete action options for political decision-makers and they are interested also in influencing the political public at large. Many of the current publications issued by think tanks such as Clingendael in the Netherlands, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the UK think tank Chatham House , the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and the Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP) in Munich are openly accessible, well advertised and can be downloaded easily from the organisations' websites. The quality of the content is generally high. Indeed, think tank offerings can be regarded as profound specialist publications which can be even more influential than academic political science publications in the strict sense of the word.

Open Access journals

About 120 political science journals are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) as of July 2018. The Electronic Journals Library (EZB) features over 1,800 freely accessible journals.



Berabeitung durch: Dr. Benjamin Vauteck, Bibliothek des Deutschen Bundestages

Disciplinary repositories


Specialised Information Service (FID):

  • OstDok is the central Open Access and publication platform for interdisciplinary research on Eastern, Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe.

Think Tanks:


Content editor of this web page: Dr Benjamin Vauteck, Bibliothek des Deutschen Bundestages