Implementing Open Access


Open Access in 60 seconds

The key takeaways from this article are


The introduction of open access should be strategically and jointly implemented by the management and the library.


Institutions that implement open access should clearly demonstrate their commitment to open access with an open access policy.


Infrastructure offerings to scholars and scientists for the practical implementation of open access are essential.

Implementing Open Access

Open access improves access to scholarly information and enhances the visi­bility of scholarly institutions. Although the principles of open access are fully accepted and valued by researchers (Dallmeier-Tiessen et al., 2011; Ross-Hellauer et al., 2017), concrete measures are needed to implement open access in practice.

Practical Tip

In the practical tip Open Access unterstützen - Praxistipps für Hochschulen (German only) you will find tips on how Open Access can be supported by universities.

Role of University Management

Support by management is an important prerequisite for the successful intro­duction and implementation of open access at an institution. The adoption of a clear position, for example in the form of an open access policy, underscores the fact that providing open access to research results is valued and supported by the institution. In this way, the sustainable use of available resources, and if necessary their redeployment, can be centrally promoted.

In the practical implementation of open access at an institution, it is crucial that management cooperate with the library and the data centre, because, as a rule, it is there that the measures are implemented and the services provided.

Role of Libraries

Libraries are important players in the area of open access. They are reliable intermediaries in the supply of literature and information, and they handle the acquisition and provision of both print and electronic media. At many institu­tions, together with the data centre, they take on a large part of the practical implementation of open access offerings, for example as operators of theses servers and repositories, by supporting the establishment of open access journals, or by establishing university presses themselves. In most cases, they are also responsible for administering open access publication funds.

As a rule, libraries are also the ones that create an awareness about and drive the transition to open access. They are in close contact with the departments and know their interest in and needs for open access offerings. In addition, they are familiar with the range of discipline-specific offerings and requirements in the area of open access.

In what follows, we outline concrete measures for the introduction and implementation of open access. Here, intensive cooperation between the institution’s library, researchers, data centre, and management is expedient. The implementation of open access involves not only the provision of a technical infrastructure but also comprehensive, target-group-specific marketing activities relating to open access.

Practical Tip

In the practical tip Open Access unterstützen - Praxistipps für Hochschulbibliotheken (in German) you will find tips on how Open Access can be supported by universities.

The following measures have proved effective in implementing open access:

The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities can be signed by research performing and research funding organisations, as well as cultural institutions (e.g., libraries or museums). If interested, institution managers should contact the President of the Max Planck Society. By signing the Declaration, an institution commits to promoting scientific discourse through the consistent use of electronic channels of communication and to making scholarly knowledge accessible to the widest possible public.

An institutional commitment, for example in the form of an official policy on open access or open science, is the most sustainable way of imple­menting the open access idea at an institution. In addition to expressing the institution’s commitment to open access/open science, this policy usually calls on the members of the institution to make their publications available in open access. This can be done either by publishing the works open access (gold open access) or by self-archiving the publications in an institutional repository. An exemplary structure and core content of a policy document are summarised on our webpage Open Access Policies. ROARMAP lists the open access mandates and policies of universities, research institutions, and research funders throughout the world.

Institutions can also create their own systems of incentives for open access. For example, open access can also be included as a criterion for the performance-oriented allocation of funds.

Besides drafting an institutional open access policy, the appointment of an open access officer as a central contact person for open access topics is recommended. Open access officers act as intermediaries between the library and the interests of the researchers; they play an advisory role, and are comprehensively informed about trends in scholarly publishing behaviour across disciplinary boundaries. The National Open Access Contact Point, OA2020-DE, has compiled a list of the open access officers at German universities and research institutions. The Train-the-Trainer Workshops offered by the project provide information materials and training courses for open access officers.

An institutional commitment to open access alone is not enough. 

It is also important to make it clear to all members what this commitment means for them in concrete terms. The topic of open access should therefore also be discussed at the level of departments, institutes, and working groups. When marketing open access, it is thus important that information transfer be broad and take place at all levels.

International Open Access Week takes place every year in the third week of October. During Open Access Week, the topic of open access is addressed at many different locations worldwide in order to promote open access to knowledge and information resulting from publicly funded research and to provide information on site. Open Access Week provides institutions with a good opportunity to inform their members about open access.

A range of reusable information materials can be found on our Materials page and in the Zenodo Community of the project Information videos about open access can be found in the series on the TIB AV Portal.

When implementing open access, besides strategic and communicative measures, concrete infrastructure services that enable open access docu­ments to be appropriately archived and showcased are also necessary.

Theses and document servers, operated as a rule by the institution’s library, are now the norm at most institutions. Institutional repositories offer university members professionally comprehensive publication services. These services range from the publication of dissertations and series, through the self-archiving of articles and monographs, to the archiving of video recordings, posters, and presentation slides. Detailed information on building and operating repositories can be found on our Repositories page. In the focus group Zweitveröffentlichung [Self-Archiving], providers of self-archiving services have the opportunity to exchange information and experiences on practical and legal issues.

Examples of institutional publication services include KOPS, the institu­tional repository at the University of Konstanz; GRO.publications/GRO.­data for text and data publications of the research institutions in Göttingen; and the TIB AV-Portal for scientific videos at the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB).  

University presses are primarily devoted to the publications of their own institutions. When distributing traditional books, they aim to offer high quality at fair prices. Besides print publications, university presses also publish online editions, thereby supporting the principle of open access. As a rule, responsibility for operating these scholarly presses lies with the university libraries, which thus not only acquire scholarly content but also offer publication opportunities themselves. The majority of German-language university presses have joined together in the Arbeitsgemein­schaft der Universitätsverlage (working group of the German-language university presses), which has produced, among other things, useful information materials and guidelines on various aspects of open access publishing.

In addition, institutions can support their researchers in establishing their own open access journals. Many libraries offer advisory services on or provide assistance with matters relating to the concrete implementation of open access journals. Detailed information on establishing and operating open access journals can be found on our Publishing Open Access Journals page.

The focus group offers a forum for independently published journals and editors collectives whose free-of-charge publica­tions are produced independently of major publishers.

Dealing with open access publication charges is crucial for the further strategic and organisational development of the scholarly information supply. A dedicated budget for publication charges, as well as funda­mental decisions concerning the handling of open access publication charges, are expedient and can be an effective instrument for reorgani­sing economic relationships between the scholarly institution and publishers.

Many institutions provide an institutional open access publication fund for this purpose; it is often administered by the institution’s library. From this fund, the institution pays the open access article processing charges (APCs) or book processing charges (BPCs) incurred by its researchers. Libraries lend themselves to the role of publication fund administrator because they have years of experience in working with publishers, and thus have the necessary contacts. The specific challenges involved in setting up and operating open access monograph funds are addressed by the focus group Open-Access-Monographiefonds [Open Access Monograph Funds]

To implement open access in a sustainable and comprehensive way, it is important to raise open access awareness beyond the levels of the management and the library. Researchers, doctoral candidates, students, and research support staff should therefore be included in PR and marketing measures. This applies especially to those areas of the administration that deal with the requirements of research funding agencies and the measurement of scholarly output. In addition, the open access idea can be spread sustainably if it is suggested to young scholars and scientists at an early stage, for example at study seminars or in graduate programmes.


  • Dallmeier-Tiessen, S., Darby, R., Goerner, B., Hyppoelae, J., Igo-Kemenes, P., Kahn, D., Lambert, S., Lengenfelder, A., Leonard, C., Mele, S., Nowicka, M., Polydoratou, P., Ross, D., Ruiz-Perez, S., Schimmer, R., Swaisland, M., & van der Stelt, W. (2011). Highlights from the SOAP project survey. What Scientists Think about Open Access Publishing. ArXiv.
  • Ross-Hellauer, T., Deppe, A., & Schmidt, B. (2017). Survey on open peer review: Attitudes and experience amongst editors, authors and reviewers. PLOS ONE, 12(12).

Further Reading