Open Access in Physics

Open access has been an integral part of the publication and information structure in physics for a long time now. The publication of preprints plays a major role in this discipline. The main reason for this publication culture is that researchers have a great interest in making scientific articles available directly and without delays due to publication processes. Thus, the repository arXiv was created as early as 1991.

The process of making all scholarly journals or articles in high energy physics open access has already been implemented within the framework of the project SCOAP³ (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics) (see Open Access Journals).

CERN points the way for open access in physics worldwide. It has assumed a leading role in all major open access initiatives, for example in the funding of SCOAP³, the operation of the interdisciplinary repository Zenodo in collaboration with the European Commission, and the development of the repository software Invenio

In Germany, the Max Planck Society, DESY, the centre for research on particle acceleration at the Helmholtz Association, and TIB – Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology and University Library are particularly engaged in the area of the long-term funding of open access business models in physics. These institutions also act as SCOAP³ National Contact Points and participate in the funding of the disciplinary repository arXiv. Via the national project SCOAP³-DH, TIB organises the participation of German higher education institutions (HEIs) in SCOAP³, and in the network arXiv-DH, it organises the funding of the German HEIs’ contribution to arXiv.

Open Access Journals

As of December 2021, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed 506 entries under the keyword physics

As early as 1999, the Institute of Physics, together with the Deutsche Physika­lische Gesellschaft, started the New Journal of Physics, one of the first gold open access journals. 

Overall, the publication output of open access journals in physics is low compared with that of subscription journals in this field. This is due to the fact that green open access – for the most part the self-archiving of preprints before publication in a journal – predominates. 

Against this background, the international project SCOAP³ was initiated in the field of high energy physics with the aim of publishing peer-reviewed journal articles under a Creative Commons licence. SCOAP³ is a global consortium of libraries, library consortia, research funding organisations, and research per­forming organisations. It collaboratively implements the process of converting scholarly journals in the field of high energy physics to open access. All articles (in gold or hybrid open access journals) are funded by the consortium. The average APCs are significantly lower than those of comparable transformation processes, and no costs arise for the authors. The goal of the project is to replace article processing charges with fair market prices. An overview of participating journals with the respective percentages of articles funded by SCOAP³ and the absolute number of articles funded to date (updated daily) can be found on the SCOAP³ Journals web page.

Video about the Funding of Open Access Articles

Open Access Books

As of December 2021, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) listed around 76 titles under the subject physics; 54 titles were listed by the OAPEN Library.

In physics, most books are published with traditional publishers; open access books are still a peripheral phenomenon.

Disciplinary Repositories

As mentioned above, preprints have a very long tradition in physics. As from the 1960s, a culture of making preprints available developed and became estab­lished, especially in the field of high energy physics. Against this background, Paul Ginsparg founded the electronic repository arXiv at Los Alamos National Laboratory on 14 August 1991. This represents a key milestone in the history of open access. To this day, arXiv, which has been operated by Cornell Tech since 2020, is a model for disciplinary repositories. To ensure the long-term and sustainable operation of the repository, arXiv is funded for the most part by Cornell University, the Simons Foundation, and institutional members

Besides preprints, preliminary results and discussion papers are published on arXiv that are not published elsewhere for the time being. Before submitting their first preprints to arXiv, authors are usually required to obtain an endorsement – that is, established authors in the relevant field must endorse their submissions. Authors affiliated with a known academic institution or research facility can be exempted from this requirement. 

ArXiv stands out as a disciplinary repository with simple functionalities and – compared with peer review – reduced quality assurance mechanisms. In physics, many publishers enable manuscripts deposited in arXiv to be directly submitted to their journals. For example, the publication portal SciPost directly accepts arXiv records as submissions; manuscripts do not have to be uploaded.

An overview of relvant 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

INSPIRE-HEP is an open access digital database for publications and preprints in the field of high energy physics. It is a collaborative project of CERN, DESY, Fermilab, and other partners. Besides standard information on the publications, for example bibliographic details and links to full texts, the metadata records also include references and citations. INSPIRE-HEP thus enables the generation of author profile pages with citation analyses. Moreover, INSPIRE-HEP provides information on HEP institutions, experiments, and conferences. Important sources of information, for example or the NASA Astrophysical Data System are also integrated.

Open Science in Physics

In physics, there are many different open science initiatives, first and foremost CERN’s Open Data Portal, where two terabytes of data on experiments at CERN are freely available and reusable. Moreover, there are numerous repositories with physics data, all of which are listed in the Registry of Research Data Repositories,

In addition, program code is often published open source on special project pages of the participating working groups. Infrastructural institutions are rarely involved. Examples of open source programs in theoretical solid state physics are ABINIT and QUANTUM ESPRESSO.

Content editor of this page: Dr Gernot Deinzer, Regensburg University Library (Last updated: December 2021)