Below you find answers to questions we are frequently asked about open access and about the financial and legal aspects in particular.


Is open access free of costs?

First and foremost, open access means that scientific literature can be accessed free of charge and publicly via the internet. With open access, therefore, access to the literature is free of charge. However, just as with the publication of literature that is not freely accessible, expenses are incurred in implementing open access throughout the entire process of producing publications as well as for the necessary infrastructure. Therefore, in some cases, but not always, fees are charged for the publication of open access publications, which are usually paid to the publishers or publishing institutions.

How do I find open access journals?

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a comprehensive directory of open access journals.

Do open access journals employ a review process (peer review) and are there procedures of quality assurance?

Open access is only about access and reuse rights. Apart from that, open access journals are no different from non-open access journals. They are therefore compatible with all forms of review and quality assurance procedures commonly used in science. As with non-open access journals, there are reviewed and non-reviewed open access journals. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) allows you to find reviewed open access journals and to further filter specific forms of review.

How do I find open access books?

The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) lists many – though not all – open access books.

For open access, is it not sufficient if I make my publications available on ResearchGate, Academia.edu or another academic social network?

No. Offering a publication on an academic social network does not meet the criteria of open access – not even those of green open access – because the publications here are usually not publicly accessible but only after registration. Furthermore, no digital preservation is assured. In addition, uploading and offering a publication on an academic social network can constitute copyright infringement if the rights to the publication are no longer held by the author, but have been transferred exclusively to the publisher, as is usually the case with non-open-access, paywalled publications. Publications that have been published under an open licence may however be offered on an academic social network, depending on the licence conditions. A publication, whether published via gold open access or green open access, should best be given in academic social networks only as a reference and with a link to the publication, but the full text should not be offered directly there. A blog entry (in German) by the university library of the Technische Universität Berlin and the website 'How Can I Share It?' helps to understand how and where you are allowed to share an article published by different publishers.

Does open access only include free access or also unlimited rights of use?

The consensus is that open access includes digital, free and public access via the internet. However, whether and which additional uses ought to be permitted, or are permitted, is not standardized and is sometimes the subject of controversy. In the open access movement and among stakeholders from the scientific community, additional unrestricted use rights are almost always understood as a prerequisite for open access. For example, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) has concisely defined open access as "free availability and unrestricted use." However, there are also those who understand only free availability as a prerequisite for open access (which others refer to as merely 'free access'). Moreover, especially in practice, the definition and understanding of open access is not uniform. In particular, publications made available via green open access are often only freely accessible and do not provide for any special rights of use. Peter Suber, a long-time contributor to the open access movement, has proposed an elegant distinction for this problem: gratis access and libre access. Accordingly, gratis open access includes only free access, while libre open access includes free access and more extensive use rights (which go beyond the uses already permitted under copyright law), with no further distinction being made between the ranges of permitted uses. However, these terms have not yet gained acceptance and are rarely used.

For original publications funded through the publication funds and special conditions that are available through the University Library, Creative Commons licences must usually be used to grant additional use rights.


How can I fund open access publications?

There are various funding options for open access publications for members of Humboldt-Universität. Publication fees are usually covered by Humboldt-Universität or by research funding institutions on behalf of the authors.

Are the publication funds of Humboldt-Universität only available to members of the university?

The publication fund for journal articles is only available for open access articles where the applicant is a member of Humboldt-Universität and is also the submitting author or corresponding author and thus responsible for paying the publication fees. Authors must be members of Humboldt-Universität at the time of payment of the publication fees.

Applications for funding for open access books from the publication fund for books are only considered if they are filed by members of Humboldt-Universität or by former members of Humboldt-Universität in case the work on which the publication is based was mainly carried out during the period of membership at Humboldt-Universität (for example a dissertation thesis carried out at Humboldt-Universität).

Who is considered a member of Humboldt-Universität?

In accordance with § 43 section 5 of the Berliner Hochschulgesetz (Berlin Higher Education Act) members of Humboldt-Universität are:

  • persons who are in an employment relationship with the university, including persons in a vocational training relationship,
  • persons who are paid from third-party funds and who work there full-time with the approval of the presidium,
  • honorary professors, associate professors and private lecturers,
  • the registered students,
  • doctoral candidates,
  • assistant lecturers and visiting lecturers pursuant to § 113.

I am a member of Charité. Are the publication funds available to me?

No. The Charité is an independent organizational unit and offers its members an own publication fund only available to members of Charité.

Do doctoral students admitted to and enrolled in doctoral programs count as members of Humboldt-Universität?

Yes. Doctoral students are members of Humboldt-Universität, in accordance with § 43 section 5 of the Berliner Hochschulgesetz (Berlin Higher Education Act). In the case of the publication fund for journal articles, applications from junior researchers will be given priority if 75 % or more of the publication fund is exhausted.

Who is considered a junior researcher?

Doctoral students and postdocs are considered junior researchers defined as follows:

  • Doctoral students: doctoral students admitted to and enrolled in doctoral programs of Humboldt-Universität
  • Postdocs: research fellows; on fixed-term positions, holding a PhD, in the process of habilitating or already habilitated as well as experienced researchers with up to 10 years of post-doctoral research experience, excluding non-research periods

May another university or non-university research institution be listed as a secondary affiliation on a publication funded by the publication fund for journal articles?

Yes. In any case, however, the affiliation to Humboldt-Universität and the postal address of Humboldt University must be given. Please follow the affiliation guidelines of Humboldt-Universität.

I would like to publish in a journal that is not an open access journal, but in which individual articles can be published open access by paying a fee. Is funding by the publication fund possible?

Publications in these so-called hybrid journals (see the glossary) are not eligible for funding due to the regulations of the German Research Foundation for the publication fund for journal articles. This applies to offerings such as "Springer Open Choice", "ACS AuthorChoice", "Wiley OnlineOpen" and comparable.

If I receive funding from the publication funds, do I have to acknowledge the funding?

Yes. In the case of a funded open access journal article, please arrange with the publisher to include the following acknowledgement: "We acknowledge support by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Open Access Publication Fund of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin." This sentence is usually placed under headings such as "Funding" or "Acknowledgments." In the case of funded open access books, you will receive the instructions for the required funding notice after approval of a funding application.

Does the university or university library review the publications prior to funding approval?

No. We only check the formal requirements for reimbursement. The quality of the content of the publication is ensured via the quality assurance procedures of the individual journals or publishers.

Are credit card and bank fees reimbursable in case of funding from the publication funds?

No. Only the services provided by the publisher for the open access publication are taken into account. Credit card and bank fees can therefore not be payed from the publication funds.

Legal aspects

The University Library does not offer legal consultation on open access and copyright issues, but merely provides nonbinding information and assistance in understanding the legal aspects of open access. The information is supplied without liability.

Which Creative Commons licence is recommended for an open access publication?

It is recommended to use the Creative Commons licence CC BY. This licence is most compliant with the principles of open access and enables high visibility and academic reception as well as broad use. Its only requirement for re-use is attribution, which is regarded a standard in academia through citation anyway. The use of this licence is one of the guidelines of the open access policy of Humboldt-Universität.

On a separate page, we provide further information on licences for open access.

Is it true that it is generally legal to republish one's own publications or to make them publicly available on a website after one year?

Yes, in particular circumstances. This is due to a provision in German copyright law, which is also called the secondary publication right (Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht). On a separate page, we provide more information on the secondary publication right (Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht) and how you can exercise it.