Open Access in 60 seconds

Open Access in Psychology

In line with the general trend, open access has gained ground and further established itself within psychology, too, albeit via various routes. In Germany, the largest professional association in psychology, the German Psychological Society (DGPs), acknowledged the importance of open access very early on. For example, as far back as September 2004, the general assembly of the DGPs expressed approval of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, which the DGPs formally signed in 2017.

Moreover, the Leibniz Institute for Psychology (ZPID) in particular is committed to open access in psychology. In 2012, it launched PsychOpen GOLD, an open access publishing platform for psychology on which 14 open access psychology journals are currently provided. One of the main aims of PsychOpen GOLD is to strengthen open science practices in psychology and to enhance the international visibility of European psychological research. In addition to PsychOpen GOLD, the ZPID provides open access to a range of other information products for psychology (see the "Open Science" section below).

By contrast, the internationally influential American Psychological Association (APA), the largest psychological association in the world, was for a long time quite unreceptive to open access. For example, in September 2007, the then President of the APA, Sharon Stephens Brehm, warned that the existing system of scientific publishing should be changed only with caution (Stephens Brehm, 2007). This reticence about open access can presumably be attributed not least to the fact that, as a commercial publisher, the APA publishes around 90 scholarly journals of psychology. However, all APA subscription-based journals now offer a hybrid open access option whereby authors can make individual contributions freely accessible by paying an article processing fee. However, this does not mean that these contributions can be published under an open licence, for example a Creative Commons (CC) licence.

In psychology, scholarly literature is found to a large extent in journals. By contrast, books or congress papers play a lesser role. Open access to scholarly books in psychology is still uncommon.

Purely open access journals are still the exception in psychology. As of July 2021, PsycINFO, an international disciplinary database of psychological literature provided by the American Psychological Association (APA), contained 2,276 journals, of which 9% (203) were open access journals (criterion: listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, DOAJ). A search of the transdisciplinary database Scopus conducted in July 2021 yielded 1,534 journals in psychology, of which 12% (183) were open access journals. The Web of Science database listed 538 journals from the area of psychology as of July 2021, of which 7% (39) were designated as open access journals and 5% (29) as open access journals with an Impact Factor. In an earlier study based on a sample of Web of Science articles published between 2009 and 2015, Piwowar et al. (2017, 2018) found that 4.7% of articles in psychology were published in purely open access (gold open access) journals. Because many journals in psychology offer open access at least as an option (hybrid model), the share of actually freely available journal articles is presumably higher.

Open Access Journals

As of December 2021, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed 1,358 entries under the keyword Psychology. Many of the purely open access journals are traditionally found on scholarly, non-commercial platforms of professional associations, research institutions, universities, or specialised information centres. However, as author-funded business models are growing in popularity, purely open access journals are increasingly being provided by traditional scholarly publishers and new, commercial open access publishers.

Important open access journals in psychology include

Some of the above-mentioned journals have been published open access for many years now and do not levy any article processing charges (Europe's Journal of Psychology, Judgement and Decision Making). Among the journals that do charge authors a fee to have their scholarly contributions published, this charge ranges from several hundred euros/dollars (e.g. Advances in Cognitive Psychology) to several thousand euros/dollars (e.g. Frontiers in Psychology). Frontiers in Psychology is an example of a megajournal published by an open access publisher; it publishes several thousand articles per year.

The most important psychology publisher in the German-speaking area, Hogrefe, currently (March 2022) has three purely, APC-financed open access journals. For all journals in its portfolio, it does offer its authors the option of providing open access to their works against payment of an article processing charge (hybrid model). However, there are framework agreements between Hogrefe and research institutions, whereby the individual article processing charges for authors from these institutions are waived in favour of consortial funding.

Video about the Funding of Open Access Articles

Open Access Books

As of July 2021, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) listed 281 titles under the keyword psychology. OAPEN listed 10,276 titles under psychology (as of December 2021). Because a large share of the scholarly literature in psychology is found in journals, books or congress papers play a lesser role. The publication of open access books, in particular, is still uncommon.

Disciplinary Repositories

The most important repositories in psychology include:

  • PsychArchives – one of the few open access repositories worldwide that specialise in psychology. In addition to the actual manuscripts, it also includes in many cases accompanying material (e.g. data and code).
  • PsyArXiv – contains preprints from psychology.
  • Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR) – contains documents from the social sciences, some of which are also assigned to psychology.

Green open access – that is, the self-archiving of preprints and post-prints – is now widespread in psychology and is permitted by many publishers.

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 Useful Offerings

As yet, there are no databases and search engines that index only open access documents from psychology. However, with PubPsych there is a large, freely accessible psychological reference database that also provides links to full texts and allows users to filter search results specifically by open access content. PubPsych comprises records of journal articles, books and book chapters, intervention programmes, research data, and psychodiagnostic test instruments from all areas of psychology. 

In addition, PsyOA, a member of the Fair Open Access Alliance, helps publishers that wish to make the transition to a fair open access publishing model.

Open Science in Psychology

Ever since Ioannidis (2005) questioned the validity of most published research findings, and in view of the large number of failed attempts to replicate previously significant effects (e.g. Open Science Collaboration, 2015), vehement discussions on the reliability of published research findings have been taking place in many scholarly disciplines under the heading replication crisis. According to the criticism of scientific practice, the low reproducibility could be an indication of a high rate of false-positive results. Potential causes of this (e.g. p-hacking or HARKing) are often subsumed under the rubric "questionable research practices".

In reaction to this, there has been an increase in the importance of open science (e.g. Munafò et al., 2017), an umbrella term for a wide variety of practices aimed at making the research process more transparent and thus more reproducible. Open science also aims to make research accessible to more people. Important open science practices in psychology include, for example, the preregistration of studies (i.e. the recording and publication of research plans before the beginning of a study/the data analysis in order to transparently specify a priori what is planned), open material and open data (i.e. the sharing of research materials and data in order to make findings transparent and reusable). As there are diverse and changing positions on open science within psychology, the extent of the spread of its constituent elements varies (Spinath, 2021).

There are various offerings in psychology that are in the spirit of the open science idea:

RDC at the ZPID – The Research Data Centre (RDC) at the ZPID makes psychological research data available for reuse. Provided by the Leibniz Institute for Psychology (ZPID), and accredited by the German Data Forum (RatSWD), it documents, archives, and publishes research data from all areas of psychology; it is currently the only research data centre that specialises in psychology.

Open Science Framework – The Center for Open Science, which operates the Open Science Framework (OSF), a platform for sharing documents, data, scripts, etc., is one of the most committed advocates of open access, also in psychology. Although this initiative is transdisciplinary, it has a strong psychological foundation.

Open Test Archive – This archive, which is also provided by the Leibniz Institute for Psychology (ZPID), makes open access test instruments available for research and teaching.

PsychAuthors – This freely accessible database contains profiles and publication lists of authors in psychology from the German-speaking area.

Link Collection of the German Psychological Society (DGPs) – practical resources for research and teaching on the topic of open science

In addition, there are numerous open science initiatives at the psychological institutes and faculties of various universities in Germany. Most of these initiatives have joined together in the Netzwerk der Open-Science-Initiativen in Deutschland (NOSI).


  • Ioannidis, J. P. A. (2005). Why most published research findings are false. PLOS Medicine, 2(8).
  • Munafò, M. R., Nosek, B. A., Bishop, D. V. M., Button, K. S., Chambers, C. D., Percie du Sert, N., Simonsohn, U., Wagenmakers, E.-J., Ware, J. J., & Ioannidis, J. P. A. (2017). A manifesto for reproducible science. Nature Human Behaviour, 1.
  • Open Science Collaboration. (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 349(6251).
  • Piwowar, H., Priem, J., Larivière, V., Alperin, J. P., Matthias, L., Norlander, B., Farley, A., West, J., & Haustein, S. (2017). Data from: The state of OA: A large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles. Zenodo.
  • Piwowar, H., Priem, J., Larivière, V., Alperin, J. P., Matthias, L., Norlander, B., Farley, A., West, J., & Haustein, S. (2018). The state of OA: A large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles. PeerJ, 6.
  • Spinath, B. (2021). Zur Lage der Psychologie. Psychologische Rundschau, 72(1), 1–18.
  • Stephens Brehm, S. (2007). Open access: A thorny debate. Monitor on Psychology, 38(8).

Content editors of this page: Prof. Dr Armin Günther, Leibniz Institute for Psychology; Roland Ramthun, Leibniz Institute for Psychology and Lisa Spitzer, Leibniz Institute for Psychology (Last updated: December 2021)