The term “Open Access” encompasses free and public access to research information via the internet.

Originally, the term was used for scientific literature and – according to the initiators of the OA-movement - meant its „free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.“ (see the 2002 Declaration by the Budapest Open Access Initiative).

This fundamental position was strongly supported by renowned research organizations (including the Leibniz Association) in 2003 by signing the “Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities”. At the same time, it was transferred to other areas of scientific research. Following this idea, “open access contributions include original scientific research results, raw data and metadata, source materials, digital representations of pictorial and graphical materials and scholarly multimedia material.”


The Open Access movement was fueled by a backlash that grew from an excessive increase in fees charged by commercially marketed academic and scientific publications (“serial crisis”) in addition to a wide-spread use of the internet as a new source of information. Already 2001, Stevan Harnard published a seminal paper in Nature entitled  “The self-archiving initiative. Freeing the refereed research literature online”, where he laid out the basic arguments for Open Access.

Benefits of Open Access

Open Access publications offer advantages to both authors of scientific literature and research data and especially the recipients of this information:

  • immediate access to information at no charge;
  • increased visibility and impact of research findings;
  • protection of authors’ exploitation rights;
  • improved transparency and verifiability of research results;
  • avoidance of duplicated research efforts.

Further, providing free access to scientific literature via the Internet partially curbs the multiple subsidization and commercialization of publicly-financed research.