Open Access in Chemistry

The acceptance and spread of open access are still less advanced in chemistry than in physics or biology, for example. The reasons for this are diverse and undoubtedly arise also from the traditional development of the chemistry community. Nevertheless, there has been an increase in open access activities in chemistry in recent years. For example, large specialist publishers have converted several journals to open access, and chemical societies have intensified their activities towards open access, as shown, for example by the setting up of the preprint server ChemRxiv. One pioneer in this field is Peter Murray-Rust of the University of Cambridge, who has been active both in the area of open access and open data.

Reservations about open access publishing are still high in chemistry. In addition, there are also fears of free subsequent use of research results by industry and the associated aspects of patent-protected results, which can, however, be dispelled by granting suitable subsequent use licenses. Although the German Chemical Society (GDCh) was critical of Plan S in its 2018 statement, its partner publisher Wiley-VCH signed a contract with DEAL in 2019 (Schmitz, 2019). Moreover, a DEAL contract with Springer Nature has been in force since 2020.

Open Access Journals

As of December 2021, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed 479 indexed journals under the keyword Chemistry.

The most important journals include:

Although this list is just a small selection of chemistry journals with open access models, it includes journals from relevant publishers or with a long open access tradition. Some large and absolutely relevant and renowned publishers – for example, the American Chemical Society (ACS), the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), and Nature Publishing – offer open access journals for chemistry.

Although the impact factor as a quality metric is very controversial (see the Declaration on Research Assessment, DORA), it should be noted that many of the aforementioned open access journals have considerable impact factors. For example, as of 2020, the impact factor of the RSC journal Chemical Science was 9.825 (Journal Citation Reports, JCR), and the impact factor of the ACS journal ACS Central Science was 14.553 (JCR).

One journal that has been open access since the beginning of the open access movement is ARKIVOC (established in the year 2000). It covers organic chemistry, including areas of bio-organic and organometallic chemistry. The journal is published by ARKAT USA, Inc., a not-for-profit organisation established through charitable donation in the year 2000, whose aim is to promote the dissemina­tion of organic chemical research worldwide, hence benefitting students, re­searchers, commercial and non-commercial enterprises. Thus, neither the sub­mission of an article to ARKIVOC nor the publication is subject to author-side costs. This is also true of the Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry (BJOC), which has been published in open access since 2005 and is fully funded by the Beilstein-Institut.

The Journal of Cheminformatics was established in 2009 as an open access journal at BioMed Central (BMC), which is now part of Springer Nature. It covers all areas of cheminformatics and molecular modelling. With 3,490 citations as of 2019, the citation rate has more than doubled in the past five years. The journal ChemistryOpen has been published since 2012 by Wiley-VCH on behalf of ChemistryEurope, an association of 16 European chemical societies. Until 2020, ChemistryEurope was known as ChemPubSoc Europe.

Video about the Funding of Open Access Articles

Open Access Books

The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) lists 895 titles under the keyword Chemistry. As of December 2021, the OAPEN Library listed around 557 titles under the search term Chemistry and the subject term Science.

The most important publishers include Taylor & Francis, Springer Nature, and De Gruyter, all of whom have published only a small number of open access books to date.

Disciplinary Repositories

The most important disciplinary repositories in chemistry include:

  • Beilstein Archives: contains preprints from the fields of organic chemistry and nanotechnology. The service is operated and funded by the Beilstein-Institut.
  • ChemRxiv: a server for preprints in chemistry and related areas. ChemRxiv is collaboratively managed and financed by the ACS, the Chinese Chemical Society, the Chemical Society of Japan, the GDCh, and the RSC.
  • PubMed Central: contains full texts of biomedical and life sciences journal literature (incl. biochemistry, medical chemistry). It is operated by the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM).

Institutional repositories of relevance for chemistry include, for example, JuSER, the publication portal of Forschungszentrum Jülich; the publications database of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht; and the publications repository of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf.

An overview of repositories is provided by the Open Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR).

Video about Self-Archiving Rights

Practical Tip

Finding Open Access Literature (in German)

Other Offerings

Chemistry is shaped by laboratory work. The experiments conducted are documented in so-called lab notebooks, or lab books. These records are still often kept in paper form. However, as digitalisation advances, the possibilities of digital documentation are also increasing.

Chemotion is an electronic lab notebook (ELN) for chemistry, in which molecules and reactions can be systematically recorded in digital form (Tremouilhac et al., 2017). In addition, the content and data can be made freely available for reuse under a Creative Commons licence via the affiliated Chemotion repository. The development of the Chemotion open source software was funded by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

For an overview of various electronic lab notebooks, see the ELN-Wegweiser (ELN guide) published by ZB MED (Adam & Lindstädt, 2020).

Open Science in Chemistry

The topic of open science and its sub-topic open access to research data are still not dealt with enough in chemistry. There are small rays of hope, for example, in the area of crystallography. The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC) and the Crystallography Open Database (COD) provide an access to crystallographic data that is already well established in this community.

There are already a number of open access databases in the area of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy (e.g., the Spectral Database for Or­ganic Compounds) that can be used to search for and to compare spectro­scopic data. However, this is mostly limited more to the depiction of spectra than to the actually recorded data points.

Chemical data and information can be deposited and made freely available in the PubChem database at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). PubChem collects information on, for example, chemical structures, identifiers, chemical and physical properties, and biological activities.

The Registry of Research Data Repositories (re3data) is a first point of contact when it comes to finding further suitable research data repositories for chemistry.

Within the framework of the development of a National Research Data Infrastructure (Nationale Forschungsdateninfrastruktur, NFDI) in Germany, the topic of open science and the handling of research data at national level is being addressed in the chemistry consortium NFDI4Chem (Steinbeck et al., 2020). The aim is to advance the digitalisation of all relevant steps in chemical research in order to support researchers in collecting, storing, processing, analysing, disclosing, and reusing research data.


  • Adam, B., & Lindstädt, B. (2020). ELN-Wegweiser. Elektronische Laborbücher im Kontext von Forschungsdatenmanagement und guter wissenschaftlicher Praxis—Ein Wegweiser für die Lebenswissenschaften [ELN guide. Electronic lab books in the context of research data management and good scientific practice – a guide for the life sciences] (2nd revised and extended edition). ZB MED – Information Centre for Life Sciences.
  • Schmitz, K. (2019). DEAL-Vereinbarung tritt heute in Kraft.
  • Steinbeck, C., Koepler, O., Bach, F., Herres-Pawlis, S., Jung, N., Liermann, J., Neumann, S., Razum, M., Baldauf, C., Biedermann, F., Bocklitz, T., Boehm, F., Broda, F., Czodrowski, P., Engel, T., Hicks, M., Kast, S., Kettner, C., Koch, W., … Wulle, S. (2020). NFDI4Chem—towards a National Research Data Infrastructure for Chemistry in Germany. Research Ideas and Outcomes, 6, e55852.
  • Tremouilhac, P., Nguyen, A., Huang, Y.-C., Kotov, S., Lütjohann, D. S., Hübsch, F., Jung, N., & Bräse, S. (2017). Chemotion ELN: an Open Source electronic lab notebook for chemists in academia. Journal of Cheminformatics, 9(1), 54.

Further Reading

Content editor of this web page: Dr. Janna Neumann, TIB (last updated: December 2021)