Open Access Policies

Ten Reasons for Open Access

The key takeaways from this article are:


Open access and open science policies have been adopted at the science policy level and at the level of research institutions and research funders.


Research institutions can create their own open access policies in a modular way.


Central elements of an open access policy are: preamble, self-description, declarations of intent and rationale, recommendations for action, and references to technical and advisory services.

Among the measures to establish open access, open access policies are a much-used instrument, especially at the level of higher education institutions and non-university research institutions. Specifically, open access policies pursue the following objectives: 

  • to express support for the open access movement,
  • to position the institution in the discourse on open access, and
  • to encourage members of the institution to publish open access or deposit their publications in open access repositories. 

Activities and measures in the area of open access are increasingly embedded in the broader open science context. The present text first provides an overview of the main players in the research landscape and their guidelines. This is followed by concrete suggestions for drafting institutional open access policies.

Open Access Policies: Important Players

At the science policy level in Germany, the major non-university research organisations, the German Rectors’ Conference, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the German Research Foundation (DFG) jointly established the “Digital Information” Initiative, also known as the Alliance Initiative. According to its mission statement, the initiative aims “to equip scientists with the best possible information infrastructure they need for their research” (Steering Committee for the “Digital Information” Initiative of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, 2017, p. 2). Furthermore, it is actively committed to the further expansion of open access to scholarly knowledge. Moreover, within the framework of Projekt Deal, the Alliance Initiative has concluded joint nationwide licensing agreements with two major scholarly publishers to date, namely with Springer Nature in 2020 and with Wiley in 2019.

Numerous universities and other higher education institutions (HEIs) have adopted open access policies in the form of guidelines or recommendations. Many HEIs employ open access officers, who act as contact persons for all topics relating to open access, and who organise the implementation of open access at the institution (Hübner & Riesenweber, 2018).

HEIs are largely autonomous. Within the framework of their higher education policies (digitalisation strategies, agreements on objectives, science plans, higher education legislation, etc.), many German federal states link financial support to open access. However, HEIs’ possibilities for imposing binding requirements on researchers are limited. Many HEIs therefore take the approach of promoting open access though information events and services, thereby encouraging researchers to publish open access or deposit their publications in open access repositories. Moreover, via publication funds for open access articles and open access monographs and edited collections, libraries can link the promotion of open access to certain conditions and thus establish quality standards (Open-Access-Büro Berlin, 2020).

Many non-university research institutions, such as the Max Planck Society, the Leibniz Association, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, and the Helmholtz Association, take a very concrete approach to the transition to open access (Pampel, 2021, pp. 33 ff.):

  • The Max Planck Society describes itself as a “co-founder of the international Open Access movement”. In 2003, it published the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities”, thereby initiating a process of follow-up conferences on open access and open science. The society also plays an important role in the global OA2020 Initiative. The Max Planck Society has anchored the commitment to open access in its Rules of Good Scientific Practice, which include the binding requirement that research results achieved with public funds should be made freely available wherever possible (Max Planck Society, 2009, p. 2). Moreover, with the Max Planck Digital Library, the Max Planck Society operates an extensive information portal and supports its researchers’ open access publications with a publication fund.
  • The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft pursues a binding Fraunhofer Open Access Strategy 2020, which states that “the goal for 2020 is to ensure that at least one half of all scientific papers in a year are published open access, with at least one third of these via the gold road where papers are first published in an open access journal” (Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, 2015, p. 2).
  • The Leibniz Association has also adopted a far-reaching open access policy, in which it not only expresses its commitment to open science but also sees itself as an active player in the further development of open research. Leibniz Association researchers are expected to publish open access and to play an active role in open access journals. When doing so, they are advised and supported by their respective Leibniz institutions.
  • With the Helmholtz Open Science Office, the Helmholtz Association embeds the topic of open access in the broader open science context. In 2004, it became the first research association in Germany to adopt its own open access policy, which stated that: “Publications from the Helmholtz Association shall in future, without exception, be available free of charge as far as no conflicting agreement with publishers or others exist” (Helmholtz-Association, 2004). Since 2013, this provision applies also to beneficiaries of funding from the Initiative and Networking Fund of the Helmholtz Association. In 2016, the Helmholtz Association formulated its Open Access Policy in concrete terms and set a target of 100% open access publications with effect from 2025.

The German Research Foundation (DFG) requests all funding recipients to publish their project results directly in open access. It has implemented various funding lines to strengthen open access. By supporting researchers, libraries, institutions, and organisations, the DFG is the key player as far as the implementation and acceleration of the transition to open access in Germany is concerned.

The DFG signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities in 2003, and requests funding recipients to publish their project results open access for the purpose of scientifically adequate communication. Specifically, the contributions should either be published in peer-reviewed and/or renowned open access journals or on open access platforms, or deposited, if possible without delay, in repositories in addition to traditional publication with a publisher (German Research Foundation, 2021, pp. 42–43).

The DFG rejects a general open access mandate such as that pursued in Plan S because it fears that this could lead to higher article processing charges (APCs). Moreover, it considers that a move away from the Journal Impact Factor, which is called for in Plan S, would involve fundamental changes to the system by which research outputs are assessed, which would not be possible without major upheavals (German Research Foundation, 2018). For these reasons, the DFG is not participating in cOAlition S, although it supports the efforts of the initiative in principle.

A number of professional associations also endorsed open access and open science at an early stage. Especially worthy of mention is the Initiative for Electronic Information and Communication (IuK-Initiative), which was established in Germany in 1994. In the early stage of digital transformation, the IuK-Initiative promoted the building of a virtual and digital library and advocated a science-friendly amendment of German copyright law (Weisel, 2012).

Several professional associations can also be found among the signatories of the Berlin Declaration: the German Mathematical Society (DMV) (2005), the German Informatics Society (GI) (2007), the German Society for Pre- and Protohistory (DGUF) (2016), and the German Psychological Society (DGPs) (2017). As early as 1998, the German Physical Society (DPG) founded an open access journal, the New Journal of Physics. The DPG is thus one of the pioneers of open access publishing in Germany. However, the majority of professional associations are only slowly engaging with open access, and they are doing so under pressure from international developments (especially Plan S). Only a few professional societies have adopted open access policies of their own. In the course of the further development of the transition to open access, the discussion within the professional associations will possibly increase in importance – not least because many of them are considering converting their own journals to open access (Pampel & Strecker, 2020).

Creating an Open Access Policy

Open Access Policy Making

The purpose of open access policy-making is to initiate a process of self-awareness that will ideally result in the adoption of a policy. During this process, players in an institution take a position on open access, and then develop a common position. With the help of dedicated policies, institutions can document the fact that they are taking a position in the current transformation of science communication. The prerequisite for the success of a policy-making process is therefore the participation of all relevant actors in the institution based on an effective concept of internal communication.

Policy-Making Process

A model proposed by Howlett and Ramesh (2009, p. 91 et seq.) distinguishes five stages of policy-making: agenda setting, policy formulation, decision making, implementation, and evaluation. For the process of creating an open access policy, the following steps can be derived from this model: 

The introduction of a new policy, or the amendment or expansion of an existing policy, occurs in response to needs, problems, conflicts, or current developments in the institutional environment. It is helpful to analyse these context factors in order to formulate arguments for setting the agenda and to anticipate opposition to the policy-making process. Even at this early stage, thought can be given to the organisation of the process. 

The support of persons in executive positions is enlisted for the project. The steering and coordination of the process can be taken on by a body, a working group, or an individual. Further relevant groups of actors are informed, and arguments for a policy-making process put forward. The planned process is transparently presented. 

A policy document is formulated (see below) and repeatedly reviewed, supplemented, and/or amended in consultation with the competent institutional bodies and other stakeholders. Once all desired changes have been accepted, or rejected with proper justification, the version of the document that is ready for adoption makes its way through the competent bodies. After the incorporation of the resulting amendments, the policy is finally adopted.

The policy will produce effective results only if the recommendations and requests for action are disseminated via numerous other channels after the official publication of the policy document. Attention should be drawn to the revised or newly created policy in newsletters, on websites, on appropriate occasions, and at meetings. A transparent presentation of the policy process is desirable, including the provision of a “clean” version of the policy document in which changes have been implemented, and a link to the final version (i.e. the version that is ready for adoption) on the web pages of the competent organisational unit (e.g. open access office, university library). The impact of an open access policy can be quantified with the help of suitable monitoring tools, for example in research information systems or on publication data management platforms.

Although this linear presentation of the policy-making process diverges considerably from the discontinuous and conflict-ridden processes in the real world of academia, it may be helpful for planning purposes.

Structure and Content of an Open Access Policy

Open access policies include the following elements:



Seal of the institution; title of the document; if applicable, reference to the corresponding resolution in the official version


Preliminary remarks that explain the societal, political, or scientific context of the open access policy and refer to the self-image of the institution

“Innovation is impossible unless researchers are able to share new knowledge as soon as it has been established. In its capacity as a publicly funded organization, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has a duty to inform the general public about its research activities. At the same time, industrial partners have a need for information that will allow them to find appropriate partners for their projects. 

Consequently, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft pursues a publishing policy based on unrestricted access to information, as defined in the 2003 Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities.” Open Access Policy der Fraunenhofer- Gesellschaft 


(if not included in the preamble)

A characterisation of the institution from which the consonance of its goals and function with an open access culture is derived. The mission statement of the institution possibly contains statements from which wording can be taken.

The University of Regensburg stands, among other things, for the exchange of knowledge and culture between the cultural regions of Eastern and Western Europe and North America, for dialogue with society, for a cosmopolitan university culture, and for long-term international relations in research, teaching, and study (Mission statement of the University of Regensburg, as of 5 Oct. 2007). 
Open Access Policy of the University of Regensburg


Conceptual definition of open access and/or a brief overview of the historical context that demonstrates the importance of the topic for the activities of institution’s members

“Open Access stands for unlimited and free access to quality-controlled scholarly information on the internet. Thanks to the elimination of technical, financial, and legal barriers, Open Access has helped to accelerate academic innovation processes and to improve the visibility of research results. This supports scholars in their research and publishing and maximises the benefit of publicly funded research. As a member of the Leibniz Association, Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) – German National Library of Science and Technology is committed to Open Access.“ Open Access Policy of the Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB)


Reference to previous declarations and initiatives, commonalities, and, if applicable, obligations of the institution resulting therefrom

“Leibniz University Hannover supports the scientific and political request for open access to knowledge in the sciences and humanities, as determined in the ‘Berlin Declaration’ issued October 2003 and the “Berlin 3 Open Access” recommendation confirmed March 2005, in Southampton, UK.“ Open Access Resolution of Leibniz University Hannover


Rationale for the support for open access that the policy aims to achieve. The rationale is formulated from the perspective of the institution or from a superordinate perspective.

“In view of its responsibility for comprehensive access to academic knowledge, Heidelberg University is pressing ahead to expand open access.“ Open Access Policy of the University of Heidelberg

Declarations of intent

Mention of the goals in the area of open access that the institution has set itself. These goals may include the provision of a suitable organisational, financial, and technical infrastructure for open access publishing; the achievement of a certain percentage of open access publications within a specified time limit; the implementation of further higher education policy measures; and participation in transition processes and other, trans-institutional developments. In addition, the equal consideration of peer-reviewed open access publications in agreements on objectives and in performance-related funding award procedures, and the implementation of measures for internal communication (tutorials, open access officers) can be laid down.

When assessing scholarly performance, the University of Kassel will treat peer-reviewed contributions equally, irrespective of whether the contributions are fee-based or open access. […] Moreover, pursuant to its Research Data Guideline, the University of Kassel will offer to also make research data that arise or are collected in the context of scientific work openly accessible. 

The University of Kassel will seek to make publications produced at the university available on a large scale on the university’s publication server, KOBRA9, which will facilitate the optimal findability, authenticity, integrity, and persistent citability of these publications. Open Access-Policy of the University of Kassel 
The MLU supports and advises scholars and scientists on publishing scholarly works in open access formats, and also on making works available to the public via independent publishing channels. This requires regular training and information offerings for both researchers and staff. Adequate formats will be developed for this purpose and regularly implemented. The MLU will establish instruments to support researchers with publication costs within a certain financial framework. In particular, it will establish a publication fund and create the prerequisites for the acquisition of further funding for this purpose. 
Open Access Policy of the Martin-Luther-Universität (MLU) Halle-Wittenberg

Recommendations for action, requests, or mandates for publishing authors

The levels of obligation of the wording may vary. They range from recommendations for action, through requests, to mandates. Options for action include among other things: 

  1. Research and teaching in accordance with the aims of open science, open access, and open education 
  2. The publication of research results and scholarly publications in an open access format
  3. The self-archiving of research results or scholarly publications on an institutional document server or in a repository either in parallel with publication or after expiry of an embargo period
  4. Publication under open licences, such as Creative Commons licences 
  5. Inclusion of publication costs in applications for third-party funding 
  6. Securing of a lasting right of exploitation vis-à-vis publishers
  7. Avoidance of granting publishers an exclusive right of use 
  8. Involvement as a reviewer and editor in peer-reviewed open access journals or commitment to a progressive open access policy on the part of publishers 
  9. For managers: a recommendation to staff that they explore the possibility of publishing research results in peer-reviewed open access formats 

Example Wording

“In order to anchor openness in teaching and research lastingly at the TUHH, we recommend all TUHH members to actively pursue the objectives of Open Science, Open Access and Open Education.” 
Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) Policy of Openness in Research and Teaching 

“Therefore, Humboldt-Universität recommends all scientists to submit their articles to Open Access journals and to publish monographs and collected works on Open Access platforms.” Open Access Declaration of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Ruhr University Bochum requests its members to self-archive an electronic copy of all peer-reviewed published articles on an open access document server (green open access) insofar as there are no legal objections to doing so. 
Open Access Resolution of Ruhr University Bochum

TU Braunschweig recommends its authors to use open publication licences that promote dissemination in open access (preferably a Creative Commons CC BY licence). 
Guideline on Open Access at the Technische Universität (TU) Braunschweig

The funding regulations of many third-party funders allow funds for article processing charges (APCs) to be included in the project budget when submitting a funding proposal. Moreover, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has established a Post-Grant Fund to support open access publications resulting from completed BMBF-funded projects. It is strongly advisable to make use of such possibilities when planning and conducting third-party-funded projects. 
Open Access at the University of Greifswald 

When negotiating with publishers, researchers are encouraged to secure the right to self-archive electronic versions as provided for in the guidelines of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and other research funders. 
Open Access Strategy of the Leuphana Universität Lüneburg 

When publishing in a closed-access publication, Reutlingen University recommends [its members] to forgo granting exclusive rights of use and to retain a non-exclusive right to make [their works] available to the public, so that they may self-archive [them] in Reutlingen University’s repository. 
Open Access Policy of Reutlingen University 

As a scholarly author, you often work also as a reviewer or editor for scholarly journals. Please take note of publishers‘ pricing policies towards customers and, if applicable, work for better open access policies on the part of the publishers.
Open Access Policy of the University of Göttingen

“In their capacity as leaders, researchers at the Technische Universität München are specifically requested to also allow their employees to publish in accordance with open access.” 
Technische Universität München (TUM) Open Access Policy


Recommendations for action may be made subject to provisos. Justifications cited may include freedom of science or discipline-specific publishing cultures.

With due regard to the constitutionally protected freedom of research and teaching and the freedom to choose the publication medium and venue that results therefrom, and taking into account the different statuses of open access in the various disciplinary cultures, the JGU makes the following recommendations for the transition to open access ….
Open Access Policy of Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU) Mainz

Technical services

Mention of technical infrastructures for open access publishing provided by the institution or by third parties. These include inter alia repositories for publications, research data, and code; systems for publication data management; metadata services; controlling instruments; research information systems; open journal platforms; research data management systems, etc.

The university supports the findability and dissemination, and thus the visibility, of scholarly texts through the following measures: 

  • download option and statistics on the university’s research portal 
  • download option on the institution’s web pages via Pure Plugins 
  • provision of bibliographic data for literature search engines and catalogues (LUX; BASE; GVK etc.)  
  • publication of theses (dissertations and habilitation theses) 

Open Access Strategy of Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Advisory services

Mention of publishing advisory services for scholars and scientists, journal editors, and publishers, as well as other services to support open access publishing offered by the institution

Information events, workshops, tutorials, and individual consultations on open access are conducted regularly by the Open Access Team.

Open Access Policy of Chemnitz University Library

Final clause

“If individual provisions of this policy should be invalid or unfeasible after the policy comes into effect, the finality of the policy will be unaffected in all other respects.” 
Open Access Policy of the Helmholtz Association, 2016

Date, signatories, reference

to the official policy document in the version put to the vote, PDF download option


Contact data, references, further links


Further Reading