Open Access in 60 Seconds

Video about Open Access. (CC BY 3.0 DE)
Source: Brinken, H., Hauss, J. &  Rücknagel, J. (2021). Open Access in 60 seconds,

Open Access in Sociology

In sociology, there are many different attitudes towards open access. Whereas digital resources are widely used in research and teaching, sociologists are as yet rather hesitant about publishing their works open access (Graf et al., 2019). One reason for this is the culture of publishing in the humanities and social sciences. In these disciplines, to which sociology belongs, books in the form of monographs, thematic edited collections, conference proceedings, etc. are the predominant types of publications. In addition, many sociologists lack information on open access, with the result that they often classify open access publications as qualitatively inferior, and rely on established publishers as supposed guarantors of quality. Furthermore, there is often a need for information and clarification in the areas of licences and copyright (Graf et al., 2019). Financial questions also play a major role for authors and publishers. In many cases, for example, it is unclear how financing can be arranged if nobody has to buy the work (Verlag Barbara Budrich, 2020). 

Hesitancy on the part of sociologists is also reflected in the attitude of large professional associations. Neither the German Sociological Association (DGS) nor its US counterpart, the American Sociological Association (ASA), are among the signatories of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities
Although institutional expressions of commitment to open access are lacking in sociology, the groundwork for open access has been laid, as the following offerings on this page show.

Open Access Journals

As of July 2021, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed 700 entries under the keyword “Sociology”.

Important open access journals include:

Many renowned scholarly journals do not offer an open access option; others make articles freely available after an embargo period (green open access). For example, the journal Zeitschrift für Soziologie (ZfS) makes articles available in open access on its website two years after publication; the same goes for the journal Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (WuG). The journal Historical Social Research (HSR) automatically makes articles available in open access in the disciplinary repository Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR) after an embargo period of two years.

Financing of Open Access Articles. [german] (CC BY 3.0 DE)
Source: Brinken, H. (2020). Finanzierung von Open-Access-Artikeln,

Open Access Books

As of August 2021, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) listed 453 titles under the subject “Sociology”, while OAPEN listed around 460 titles under “Sociology”. 

The publishing landscape in the book-friendly social sciences is extremely heterogeneous, broad, and fragmented. However, the publishers Springer VS, Nomos, Barbara Budrich, Routledge, transcript, Campus, and LIT are particularly worthy of mention (Graf et al., 2020, p. 22; Projekt OGeSoMo, n.d.).

Open access publishing faces diverse challenges in book-friendly disciplines such as sociology. To make it more attractive, a suitable infrastructure for and trust in the quality of open access books must be created. The groundwork for this has been laid by the quality standards for open access monographs and edited collections formulated by the consortium of university presses AG Universitätsverlage (2018) and in the framework of the project National Contact Point Open Access OA2020-DE (Pieper et al., 2018). Moreover, in recent years, several business models for open access books have become established (OAPEN, 2020).

Disciplinary Repositories

For German-speaking sociology, the disciplinary repository Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR) is particularly important, while at an international level, a leading role is played by the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN), which, besides sociological literature, also hosts research papers from economics, political science, anthropology, and many other disciplines. 

The Open Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) provides an overview of repositories in the category “Social Science General”. 

Source: Brehm, E. (2021). Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht für Wissenschaftler*innen [german], Brinken, Helene. (CC BY 3.0 DE)

Other Offerings

SocioHub, the platform of the "Fachinformationsdienst Soziologie" (Specialised Information Service Sociology), serves as a central point of contact for the sociological community. The focus lies on a combined search (for literature and research data), on discipline-specific networking and collaboration, and making full texts available in open access for sociologists. The platform brings together offerings from various websites. SocioHub is operated jointly by the University and City Library of Cologne (USB) and GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences.

The online archives JSTOR and Project MUSE also provide relevant content for sociology as open access.

BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine) enables discipline-specific searches for digital full texts. Sociological content can be found by using the Dewey Decimal Classification Code 301.

Within the framework of the project OGeSoMo – Förderung von Open-Access-Publikationen in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften mit dem Schwerpunkt Monografien [Promotion of Open Access Publications in the Humanities and Social Sciences with a Focus on Monographs], which was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), numerous flyers with information on open access publishing in the humanities and social sciences were created.

The project ENABLE! aims to bring together in a network the individual actors in the open access publishing system in the humanities and social sciences in order to, among other things, promote open access publishing and to develop new publishing models.

Open Science in Sociology

With the services provided by GESIS, sociologists have extensive possibilities of making data, methods, and software available in open access: 

  • datorium enables the assignment of citable Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs)
  • da|ra provides the possibility of registering research data for the purpose of DOI assignment – although the data are hosted by the institutions themselves. 

In the area of qualitative data, particular mention should be made of the data service centre Qualiservice, the successor of the Archive for Life Course Research (ALLF). It archives qualitative social science research data from various disciplines and makes them available for scientific reuse. It also offers personalised and study-specific advice.

Open Research Data

Open research data are highly valued in the area of sociology. In its Code of Ethics, the American Sociological Association (American Sociological Association, 2018) encourages sociologists to make their research data available:

Sociologists generally make their data available after completion of a project or its major publications, except where proprietary agreements with employers, contractors, or clients preclude such accessibility or when it is impossible to share data and protect the confidentiality of the data or the anonymity of research participants

Closed-access US journals, such as the American Sociological Review and Sociological Methodology, refer to this Code of Ethics in their submission policies, and encourage their authors to make their research data available. The open access journal Demographic Research also has such a policy, but it applies also to computer code.


Further Reading

  • Herb, U. (2015). Open Science in der Soziologie. Eine interdisziplinäre Bestandsaufnahme zur offenen Wissenschaft und eine Untersuchung ihrer Verbreitung in der Soziologie. Werner Hülsbusch.
  • Herb, U. (2014). Open Science in Soziologie-Journalen aus deutschsprachigen und nicht-deutschprachigen Ländern, Daten und Auswertungen einer Journal-Stichprobe. Zenodo.

Cotent editors of this page: Johanna Tieke, Katja Restel, and Sabine Berger (SocioHub – Specialised Information Service Sociology) (Last updated: August 2021)