Open Access in 60 seconds

Open Access in Political Science

Political science is characterised by overlaps with other disciplines, for example, sociology, history, law and administrative science, and philosophy. Depending on the sub-discipline, it is influenced by developments in the culture of neighbouring disciplines and adopts their methods. Whereas the humanities-oriented fields of political science, such as political theory, are hesitant about open access, a dynamic development towards open access can be observed in the sub-disciplines with a social science or international focus. 

An analysis of the publication output of political science journal articles in Germany in the years 2015–2015 in the Scopus database indicates an open access share of between 30% and 35%. The share of political science books published open access is also steadily increasing. Particular mention should be made here of the transcript Open Library Politikwissenschaft, which makes all new releases in political science published by transcript immediately available in open access via crowdfunding.

The American Political Science Association (APSA), which is probably the most important political science association in the world, has been operating APSA Preprints, an open access publication platform for political science preprints, since 2019. The German Political Science Association (GPSA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Politikwissenschaft (DGfP) have not yet adopted a position on open access, and the major German-language political science journals (e.g., Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen, Politische Vierteljahresschrift and Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen) have not been published open access to date. 

A special role is played by the think tanks in the area of application-oriented political science. Think tanks are public or private institutions that analyse foreign policy processes. They focus mostly on concrete options for policy makers, while also aiming to influence the political public at large. Many current publications from the leading think tanks, for example, from Clingendael in the Netherlands or the German Institute for International and Security Affairs and the Center for Applied Policy Research in Germany, are for the most part freely accessible, albeit not completely open access. They are well publicised and can be downloaded easily from the respective websites. 

Open Access Journals

The Directory of Open Access Journals lists 548 indexed journals under the keyword political science (entries as of December 2021).

Important open access journals include:

In most cases, new journals from the major international academic publishers appear in open access. Because they have been in existence for only a short time, these young journals have been unable to accumulate enough citations. Hence, compared with the established core journals in this field, their bibliometric indices are only low or average. Of the 20 international political science journals with the highest citation rates, only one title is open access (Research & Politics). In addition, new open access journals often occupy regional niches or new sub-disciplines and therefore have a more limited scope per se. The situation of German-language political science journals should be viewed independently of this. The fact that the internal market for German-language journals is small increases the economic risk of open access transformations or start-ups for publishers operating there – unless there is institutional funding (as, for example, in the case of Africa Spectrum; or Totalitarismus und Demokratie, where the transformation to open access was supported by the Specialised Information Service for Political Science, Pollux). Some of these journals (e.g., Perspectives on Terrorism) have been able to establish themselves beside renowned journals from international scholarly publishers. Moreover, through the “publish and read” licences negotiated in the area of scholarly journals (e.g., by Projekt Deal), optional open access at article level in so-called hybrid journals is increasingly being availed of across disciplines: the share of gold open access among published political science articles in the Web of Science between 2017 and 2020 was 15% on average, and the trend is rising.

Video about the Funding of Open Access Articles

Open Access Books

The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) listed 1162 titles under the search term political science. The OAPEN Library listed around 4816 titles under the search term political science (as of December 2021).

A slowly growing demand for and acceptance of open access can be observed in the area of political science monographs and edited collections, although this development has not yet become measurably manifest: spot checks of current years of publication at Springer/Palgrave and Taylor & Francis/Routledge revealed that open access titles had a share of under 2% of the annual output in political science. However, all major publishers (including German publishing houses) now offer an open access option. The publication costs are paid (if applicable, pro rata) from project funds and via institutional sources such as publication funds or crowdfunding, for example, the above-mentioned transcript Open Library Politikwissenschaft

Disciplinary Repositories

Important repositories include:

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

The online archives JSTOR and Project MUSE now also provide open access content relevant to political science.

Open Science in Political Science

The visibility of and access to political science research data will gain in importance in future, for example, for the secondary analysis of research results or for meta-studies. Two social science research data repositories, one of which covers quantitative methods and the other qualitative methods, shall be mentioned here:

  • SowiDataNet|datorium: social science and economics research data repository for quantitative primary and secondary data
  • Qualiservice: social science research data repository for qualitative primary research data

Further Reading

  • Atchison, A., & Bull, J. (2015). Will Open Access Get Me Cited? An Analysis of the Efficacy of Open Access Publishing in Political Science. PS: Political Science & Politics, 48(1), 129–137.
  • Bull, Martin J. (2016). Open access and academic associations in the political and social sciences: Threat or opportunity? European Political Science, 15, 201–210.
  • Hanneken, S., Jobmann, A., & Schönfelder, N. (2020). Die transcript OPEN Library Politikwissenschaften – Ein Modell für Open-Access-eBooks in den Geistes- & Sozialwissenschaften. Informationspraxis, 6(2).
  • Hrynaszkiewicz, Iain. (2016). Open access journals: A sustainable and scalable solution in social and political sciences? European Political Science, 15, 191–200.
  • König, T. (2020). Converting to Open Access. The Austrian Journal of Political Science (OZP) as a Case Study. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, 49(3), 1–6.
  • Mainwaring, D. (2016). Open access and UK social and political science publishing. European Political Science, 15, 158–167.
  • Papillon, M., O’Neill, B., Bourque, M., Marland, A., & White, G. (2019). Open Access and Academic Journals in Canada: A Political Science Perspective. Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue Canadienne de Science Politique, 52(4), 903–922.
  • Projekt AuROA (2022). Publizieren und Open Access in den Geisteswissenschaften. Erkenntnisse aus dem Projekt AuROA zu den Stakeholdern im Publikationsprozess. Link:
  • Vauteck, B. (2008). Open Access als alternative Publikationsform für die deutsche Politikwissenschaft. Argumente und Strategien (Vol. 232).

Content editor of this page: Regina Pfeifenberger, Specialised Information Service for Political Science (Pollux) (Last updated: December 2021)

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