Open Access in Economics and Business Studies

Open access is always also part of the publication market and of publication behaviour as a whole. It is of particular relevance for economics and business studies because of the strong preprint culture in these fields. As a rule, these publications, which have not yet undergone peer review with a scholarly journal, appear as working papers or discussion papers. They are published for the most part by economic and business studies institutes or faculties and are usually freely accessible. Most journal articles in economics and business studies have thus already been published as working papers (see Baumann & Wohlrabe, 2020) that are freely accessible via disciplinary repositories or indexing databases such as SSRN, RePEc, or EconStor. In addition, these working papers are a good indicator of how the volume of publications in economics and business research is developing. 

It can be stated that the publication output in these fields has grown strongly in the last decade. For example, the annual increase in the number of working papers indexed in RePEc more than doubled from 65,000 to 165,000 between 2010 and 2020.

Despite the preprint culture, journal articles are still the main publication format in economics and business studies. There is a strong fixation on publication performance rankings based on journal quality ratings (produced, e.g., by Forschungsmonitoring at ETH Zurich for Handelsblatt or WirtschaftsWoche).
The main specialist publishers for economics and business studies journals are Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley. The majority of scholarly journals are provided by publishers as subscription or hybrid journals. Therefore, the growing trend in recent years towards supra-regional and national transformative agreements both in Germany (e.g., DEAL) and also internationally (see marketwatch) has led to an increase in open access articles from economics and business research. This effect is considerably stronger than the increase in open access articles from gold open access journals. 

The preprint culture is more pronounced in economics than in business studies, and the share of English-language publications, which dominate in both disciplines, is even higher in economics than in business studies.

Open Access Journals

Open access journals still play only a minor role in economics and business studies. Although their share has grown proportionally in recent years, it is still in the single-digit percentage range compared with all other journals (Laakso & Björk, 2021). There are various reasons for this, among other things, the great importance of rankings that especially favour established (subscription) journals, and, at the same time, the below-average willingness of authors to publish in open access journals that charge article processing charges (APCs) (Severin et al., 2018). 

The following open access journals play a relevant role for economics and business research, especially in Germany (publishing institution or publisher in parentheses):

It is interesting to note that over half of the above-mentioned journals do not charge APCs. Instead, the publication costs are borne by the institutes or professional societies that publish or edit them. 

In addition, it should be mentioned that economics and business researchers are increasingly publishing in open access in interdisciplinary journals or megajournals, in particular PLOS One.

Video about the Funding of Open Access Articles

Open Access Books

The role of publishers’ monographs for economic and business research has steadily decreased in recent years. They currently play only a minor role, for example in the form of edited collections or as popular scientific publications by well-known professors. The exception are textbooks, which still play an important role for the large number of students. However, because of the high revenues generated by textbooks and popular scientific titles in the classical sales model (also outside library budgets), it is particularly difficult to transform them into an open access business model.
The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) lists a total of several hundred open access books under the various subjects for literature from the areas of economics, business, management, and finance. The further financing of open access books is increasingly supported by institutional open access monograph funds, which are being established at more and more academic institutions (see also Focus group: "Open Access Monograph Funds"). 

Disciplinary Repositories

There is not just "the one" disciplinary repository in economics and business studies. Rather, several relevant venues have arisen over the years that are of relevance not only, but primarily, for the culture of publishing preprints (or working papers) that exists in these disciplines.

The main repositories in economics and business studies include:

  • SSRN: Although the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), which is owned by Elsevier, covers a broader range of disciplines than just economics and business studies, it is considered to be the largest disciplinary repository in these fields. A total of around 800,000 full texts are available in open access, over half of which are in the domains of economics and business studies. 
  • EconStor: This publication server, which is provided by the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, holds over 200,000 open access full texts. For the most part, these are working papers, but holdings also include conference proceedings and journal articles. EconStor publications are also indexed in RePEc as well as in Google Scholar and EconBiz.
  • AgEcon Search: This disciplinary repository is operated by the University of Minnesota and funded mainly by the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. It holds over 150,000 freely accessible full texts, mainly from the areas of agricultural and applied economics. All publications in AgEcon Search are also indexed in RePEc.
  • MPRA: The Munich Personal RePEc Archive (MPRA) is hosted by Munich University Library; it holds over 50,000 economics publications from all over the world. As a rule, publications are not deposited by institutions or publishers but rather self-archived by individual researchers and then released by an editorial team and indexed in RePEc.

An overview of relevant 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

Many researchers in business studies and, especially, in economics are familiar with the platform RePEc (Research Papers in Economics). It is a mixture of a union catalogue, a registry of institutions, and a ranking system. The publications listed in the union catalogue are indexed on a decentralized basis by the academic institutions and scholarly publishers themselves. With the help of automatic citation analysis and download statistics as well as information supplied by over 60,000 researchers worldwide who are registered with the RePEc author service, RePEc produces, among other things, rankings of researchers, academic institutions, and scholarly journals. The entire service is non-commercial and free of charge and is operated on a voluntary basis by various economists on distributed servers.
The search portal EconBiz , which is provided by the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, indexes over 10 million publications; searches can be restricted to open access full texts. In addition it offers a calendar of events (scholarly conferences, summer schools, etc.) in economics and business studies worldwide.

Open Science in Economics and Business Studies

Other aspects of open science that are of relevance for economics and business studies include, in particular, the area of research data, which are increasingly being made available in open access and according to the FAIR Principles. In Germany, the German Data Forum (RatSWD), among others, is engaged in the further development of this area. In this pursuit, it has, for example drawn up standards for access to research data centres. In addition, as part of the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI), there are also consortia from the economic sciences, for example, KonsortSWD

Moreover, the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, in particular, is working to develop open science in economics and business studies with, among other things, its own research group, diverse events, and a marketing campaign targeting economic and business researchers. In addition, a separate web offering for this target group is under development.


  • Baumann, A., & Wohlrabe, K. (2020). Where Have All the Working Papers Gone? Evidence from Four Major Economics Working Paper Series.
  • Laakso, M., & Björk, B.-C. (2021). Open access journal publishing in the business disciplines: A closer look at the low uptake and discipline-specific considerations.
  • Severin, A., Egger, M., Eve, M. P., & Hürlimann, D. (2020). Discipline-specific open access publishing practices and barriers to change: an evidence-based review. F1000Research, 7, 1925.

Content editor of this page: Olaf Siegert, German National Library of Economics (ZBW). (Last updated: December 2021)