Open Access in 60 Seconds

Video about Open Access. (CC BY 3.0 DE)
Source: Brinken, H., Hauss, J. &  Rücknagel, J. (2021). Open Access in 60 seconds,

Financing of Open Access Articles. [german] (CC BY 3.0 DE)
Source: Brinken, H. (2020). Finanzierung von Open-Access-Artikeln,

Open Access in Computer Science

With roots in mathematics and electrical engineering, the still young academic discipline of computer science has always adopted an open approach to the research results achieved. Success stories include open source operating systems, such as Linux, and the typesetting system LaTeX, which is well established in the field of scholarly publishing, in particular.

Because of the many links to other disciplines (bioinformatics, business informatics, …), framework conditions for scholarly publishing differ across the individual subfields. The main focus of the present article is on the “core of computer science”.

Since the mid-1990s, conferences, symposiums, and even workshops, have established themselves as publication venues for the dissemination of research results, and they hold a dominant position vis-à-vis the classical scholarly journals. This is also reflected in the programme areas of scholarly publishers and of professional societies that act as publishers. However, the strong focus on conference publications regularly leads to perception problems in the scientific landscape, for example, when this form of publication is ignored in evaluation processes (Jagadish, 2008; Vardi, 2009; Vardi, 2010; Konstan & Davidson, 2015). This tension between conference publications and journal articles also manifests itself in the current open access offerings in the field of computer science. In individual subfields (e.g., theoretical computer science and cryptology), there is a well-established preprint culture. Various publication venues for workshops and conferences have become established that differ in terms of their level of requirements or their thematic focus. Among journals, progress in the direction of open access is somewhat subdued but nonetheless tangible. The commercial publishers have recognised that open access is an additional source of revenue. However, many open access journals in computer science operate without the backing of a traditional publisher, and are organised from within the community (which sometimes means that the degree of professionalisation is very different, for example, with regard to getting indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

The national and international scientific societies in the field of computer science have taken a more conservative approach to date in relation to open access, although there has been some movement on the topic in recent years:

  • The German Informatics Society (GI): Although the GI signed the Berlin Declaration of Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities in 2007, and although it makes its series Lecture Notes in Informatics (LNI) freely available online, the scholarly journals of the thematic fields are still strongly tied to the classical subscription model. Via the Digital Library, subdivisions of the GI can make their own publications available in open access.
  • Association for Computing Machinery (ACM): The US-based ACM has been participating in the Plan S initiative since January 2021. Moreover, via ACM Author-izer, ACM authors can generate and post links on their homepage and or in their institutional repository for visitors to download their articles from the ACM Digital Library free of charge. However, from a licensing point of view, it often remains unclear whether reuse is permissible. Hence, the goals of open access are only partially achieved. Authors also have the possibility of making articles published by ACM available in open access by availing of the author-pays option
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE): The IEEE Computer Society is the section of the professional society IEEE that is responsible for computer science and engineering. It acts as a publisher for scholarly journals and conference proceedings. Open access is available in hybrid journals, and especially in the open access megajournal IEEE Access. However, there are no explicit possibilities of publishing articles in open access in IEEE conference proceedings.

Some commercial publishers offer authors the option of paying a fee (article processing charge, APC) to make individual articles available in open access (ACM Author Gateway; Lecture Notes in Computer Science). This hybrid publishing model, which is practised in the area of journals by many publishers, has also become established to a certain extent in the area of conference proceedings.

The provision of open access to data and software is an important step towards transparency of scientific works. These open data and software allow results and experiments to be reproduced to a certain degree. In the field of computer science, so-called “artefact evaluations” have become established both in the area of conferences and of journals, and related data are very often made freely accessible.

Open Access Books

As of February 2021, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) listed 778 titles under the keyword “Computer Science”.

Because of the conference culture in computer science, the majority of open access books are conference proceedings. Purely monographic works are rarely published in open access. The following list contains the most important conference proceedings series in computer science: 

Although DOAB and OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks) list a number of open access books in computer science and its subfields, they are currently very incomplete in relation to open access conference proceedings.

Disciplinary Repositories

The following repositories – both transdisciplinary repositories and repositories specialised in a single subfield of computer science – enable access to preprints and “full versions” of works made available by the authors. As the latter versions often contain further details (e.g., technical proof), they are often consulted or cited for more in-depth engagement with a topic:

Source: Brehm, E. (2021). Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht für Wissenschaftler*innen [german], Brinken, Helene. (CC BY 3.0 DE)

Other Offerings

Conference management systems play an important role in the scientific self-organisation of conferences in the field of computer sciences. That such systems are available in open access or free of charge is crucial in the planning and organising of conferences and workshops. Although there is no concrete link as such between open access and the availability of conference management systems, the latter aspect must be kept in mind when developing future open access offerings, because conference management systems are where the metadata and the draft versions of contributions are collected. The following is an exemplary list of conference management systems that are frequently used in computer science:

Searches in Computer Science

Because of the focus on conference publications in its publication culture, the field of computer science is inadequately covered in trans-disciplinary indexing and search systems that are based on journals. The dblp computer science bibliography, which was created in the early 1990s, established itself as an open access – and by now broad-scope – bibliographic service. It enables searches for individual authors and especially for conferences and journals in computer science.

The following is a list of relevant search services for computer science:

Open Science in Computer Science

Computer science acts as a technological trailblazer for the current debate on open science. The computer scientist Ben Shneiderman played a decisive role in coining the term “Science 2.0” (Shneiderman, 2008) and opened the debate on the technological renewal of science processes. There is a particular focus on open research data. Since 2011, more and more conferences (especially on software engineering) have established special committees to evaluate so-called research artefacts. These committees ensure that artefacts submitted along with a research paper are consistent with the paper and are complete, well documented and easily reusable. Successfully evaluated papers are awarded a badge, and the evaluated artefacts are designated as such. Several publishers, such as ACM and Schloss Dagstuhl, have already implemented this procedure. Software developers frequently use GitHub as a software repository. GitHub is a commercial service used by software developers for administering  different versions of software development projects.

The reproducibility of results also plays a role in various journals that have specialised in the publication of software, algorithms, proof procedures, and data. They include, for example,

Another initiative that originated in, but is not limited to, computer science is the project Software Heritage. It has set itself the task of archiving and preserving software in source code form. By the end of 2020, Software Heritage had archived over 148 million projects.


Content editors of this page: Dr Michael Wagner (Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz Center for Informatics) and Dr Marc Herbstritt (University of Freiburg) (Last updated: February 2021)