Open Access and Repositories

Open access provides free access to quality-controlled scientific information on the Internet and radically increases the visibility of scientific endeavour. Open access as defined in the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities requires absolute respect for copyright. This includes the proper attribution of authorship. As stated in the Berlin Declaration, open access contributions should be deposited, and thus published, “in an appropriate standard electronic format [...] in at least one online repository using suitable technical standards (such as the Open Archive definitions) that is supported and maintained by a [...] well-established organisation that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, inter-operability, and long-term archiving”. The success of open access for science depends crucially on the development of procedures for the evaluation of open access publications in order to maintain standards of scientific quality and good scientific practice.

Gold and Green Open Access

Basically, two roads to, or types of, open access can be distinguished:

The Gold Road to Open Access refers to the primary publication of a work in a genuinely open access journal. Because this publication channel is free of charge for the end user, it is, as a rule, financed by the author or his or her scientific institution, who pays the so-called “article processing charges” (APCs). Many universities, research institutions, and research funders have established so-called open access publishing funds to which authors can apply to have these fees paid. However, the number of existing open access journals varies from discipline to discipline. In the social sciences, genuinely OA journals are still few and far between.

The Green Road to Open Access refers to the simultaneous or retrospective secondary publication, reuse, and archiving of publications in an institutional or disciplinary repository. Both retrodigitised print publications and born-digital publications can be deposited, and thus made available, in a repository. Open access publications (gold OA) can be additionally disseminated via a repository to enhance their visibility.

Opportunities Arising from Archiving Works in Repositories

In the case of the reuse of publications in a repository – that is, green open access – it is important to determine which version of the work may be archived: the preprint, the postprint, or the publisher’s version. A preprint is the manuscript version submitted to a publisher for publication. In other words, a preprint is a scientific work that has not yet undergone peer review or revision on the basis of reviewer recommendations. The postprint version is the peer-reviewed accepted author manuscript (AAM) version without the publisher’s layout. The publisher’s version is the publisher’s PDF, that is, the published version of the work.

The secondary publication, or archiving, of a work in a repository offers the possibility of publishing the work first in a journal of your choice and, at the same time, complying with the OA-mandate of the funding organisation or the OA policies of your research institution or university by retrospectively making the work available in open access – at no cost to yourself. The SHERPA/JULIET portal provides a good overview of research funders’ open access policies and their expectations in this regard.

The use of formal and content-related metadata to describe the work being deposited, which is part and parcel of archiving in repositories, supports the visibility and findability of the full texts. Moreover, the persistent identifier (PID) assigned to the work ensures its long-term availability.

The green road to open access thus constitutes a form of open access publishing that is also expressly supported by research funders, especially in the social sciences and the humanities where genuine OA journals are not yet sufficiently established. There are in fact a number of legally secure ways of making publications available via the green road to open access. In Germany, they include the open access clauses in Alliance licences and national licences and individual provisions of the German Copyright Act (UrhG).