Religious Studies

Open Access in Religious Studies

In Germany, religious studies is one of the small disciplines, and is considered an independent humanities and cultural studies discipline distinct from the theologies. In other countries, for example in Britain and North America, the (institutional) separation of religious studies and the theologies is to some extent less pronounced.

Research in religious studies takes place in a professionally and methodologically broad, heterogeneous environment. Overlaps exist inter alia with the ethnological disciplines, with sociology, philosophy, historical studies and classical studies, and also with various area studies disciplines (e.g. African Studies) and the theologies. In religious studies, as in other humanities disciplines, great importance continues to be attached to print books in general, as well to the publication of contributions in edited collections and conference proceedings.

However, in dialogue with the religious studies community, an increasing openness towards the reception and production of open access publications is apparent. Reservations towards open access relate inter alia to fears of compromised quality and additional effort and costs (e.g. when converting journals to open access), as well as to concerns with regard to higher publication costs for authors.

To date, neither the German Association for Religious Studies (Deutsche Vereinigung für Religionswissenschaft, DVRW), nor the European Association for the Study of Religions (EASR) nor the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) has taken a clear position on open access. The DVRW’s journal, Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft, is still published in closed access. By contrast, religious studies associations in some other European countries (inter alia the Czech Association for the Study of Religions and the British Association for the Study of Religions) have been successfully publishing open access journals for some years now.

In the English-language literature, the topic of open access in religious studies has been reflected on in several contributions – both from the perspective of the editors of individual scholarly journals (Drees, 2015; Drees, 2017; Wildman et al., 2019; Petersen, 2021) and from the perspective of individual scholars (Clasquin-Johnson, 2008; Cavallin, 2013). An added value of open access is seen especially in the fact that it can also make scientific participation easier for financially insecure institutions and researchers worldwide, who are unable to access expensive licensed resources.

Open Access Journals

As of December 2022, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed 111 entries under the subject Religions. Mythology. Rationalism

A closer look at this list reveals that journals relating to a specific religion, or journals with a theological focus, are also assigned to this subject area. If one extends the search query to include journals that are listed under individual religions (Islam, Judaism, Buddhism), one achieves a more extensive result (390 entries). Here, the challenge intimated in the previous section becomes clear: on the one hand, in the international context, the discipline of religious studies cannot be clearly distinguished from the theologies; on the other hand, overlaps exist with numerous other humanities and cultural studies disciplines, as well as with the social sciences. 

Important open access journals include:

The journals listed above reflect the disciplinary and geographical spread of open access endeavours. From an international perspective, there is therefore a very great diversity of open access journals with content of relevance to religious studies – often on very specific topics.

Also noteworthy is the fact that, to date, the only publication medium for early-career religious studies researchers in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) is the Zeitschrift für junge Religionswissenschaft, DOAJ.

A large number of open access journals in the field of religious studies have not yet been listed in the DOAJ. They include inter alia: Religio: Revue pro religionistiku, the Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions, the Marburg Journal of Religion and REVER: Revista de Estudos da Religião.

Video about the Funding of Open Access Articles

Open Access Books

As of December 2022, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) listed 119 titles under the subject Religion: general, and OAPEN listed 128 titles under Religion: general.

In religious studies, there have been no explicit open access campaigns to date in the area of monographs. However, many religious studies book publications are already being offered in open access (in addition to the print version), especially by the publishers transcript and DeGruyter.

Disciplin­ary Reposi­tories

Both in the German-speaking area and internationally, there is currently only one disciplinary repository for religious studies. It is managed by the Specialised Information Service for Religious Studies (FID Religious Studies) at Tübingen University Library. The repository can be searched and the archived content accessed via RelBib, the portal of the FID Religious Studies: self-archived works in RelBib.

Moreover, the FID Religious Studies offers a comprehensive self-archiving service for registered authors from the discipline.

Depending on the field of research, other disciplinary repositories may be of relevance for authors in religious studies, for example the Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR). Repositories with an area studies focus, for example the FID4SA-Repository for South Asian studies or MENAdoc for Middle East and Islamic studies, can also be availed of.

In addition, the thematically focused repository Science and Religion Dialogue Prints (SciRePrints) is provided at the University of Latvia. SciRePrints is specifically intended for the self-archiving of publications and preprints about – or pertinent to – the dialogue between science and religion.

Video about Self-Archiving Rights

Practical Tip

Finding Open Access Literature (in German)

Other Offerings

With RelBib, the FID Religious Studies at Tübingen University Library operates an international online bibliography for religious studies that can be used free of charge. RelBib collaborates very closely with the international bibliography for theology and religious studies Index Theologicus (IxTheo). In RelBib, monographs, journals, journal articles and edited collections, websites, blogs, research data and many other resources are indexed. As new titles and updates are regularly imported, RelBib offers the most up-to-date specialised information. A steadily growing number of journals of relevance to religious studies are continuously analysed at article level. As RelBib’s focus is on providing open access content, priority is given to titles with immediate and open access to full texts. Search results can be narrowed to freely accessible titles by applying the open access filter. In addition, there is also a full-text search option in RelBib.

With the Open Journal Systems (OJS) platform RelBib Open Journals, the FID Religious Studies promotes the conversion of journals or series to open access, or the founding of new open access journals and series.




Further open access content for religious studies is made available on the platforms Project Muse (249 titles: monographs in the research area „Religion”) and JSTOR (538.264 titles: journal articles and book chapters on the subject „Religion“ as of December 2022).

Open Science in Religious Studies

To date, open science endeavours have been neither very pronounced nor centrally coordinated in the small discipline of religious studies. Nonetheless, initial activities are apparent, especially in the area of open data. In 2019, with support from the DVRW, the FID Religious Studies conducted a survey on research data in the discipline (FID Religious Studies & DVRW, 2020), the results of which also received attention in the religious studies community (Koch, 2020). The central indexing of research data of relevance to religious studies was one of the desiderata that emerged from the survey. As a result, the targeted search for research data was introduced in RelBib.

CERES (the Center for Religious Studies) at Ruhr-Universität Bochum is involved as a participating institution in the German National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) Consortium for the Historically Oriented Humanities, 4memory. One example of a digital humanities project for the digitisation of religious objects is DiGA – Digitization of Gandharan Artefacts, which is located at CERES. The provision and archiving of the image and object data is carried out in collaboration with the Specialized Information Service (FID) for South Asia

Comparable developments are also to be expected in the future in the other areas of open science (e.g. Hermann, 2021).


Content editor of this page: Mareike Heinritz, staff member of the FID Religious Studies/Bibliography of the Study of Religion (RelBib), University of Tübingen Library. (Last updated: December 2022)