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What does open access mean?

The declaration of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) defines for scientific literature: "Open Access means that this literature should be free of charge and publicly available on the Internet so that interested parties can read, download, copy, distribute, print, in them the full texts search for them, refer to them and be able to use them in any legal way imaginable, without financial, legal or technical barriers beyond those associated with the Internet access itself, in all questions of reprinting and distribution and in all questions of copyright In general, the only restriction should be to give the respective authors control over their work and to secure their right to have their work properly recognized and cited. " (Budapest Open Access Initiative)

The aim of Open Access is to make scientific literature and scientific materials freely accessible to all users: free of charge and as free as possible from technical and legal barriers. A key aspect is to maximize the dissemination of scientific information, as called for in the Berlin Declaration. This was formulated in 2003 and has since been used by well-known research organizations and universities (e.g. German Research Foundation (DFG), Swiss National Fund for the Promotion of Scientific Research (SNF), Fund for the Promotion of Scientific Research (FWF), Rectors 'Conference of Swiss Universities (CRUS), University Rectors' Conference ( HRK), Max Planck Society (MPG), CERN) signed (for BOAI and the Berlin Declaration see the pages on the history of Open Access and positions on Open Access).

Widely recognized reasons for Open Access, in addition to direct access for all people and the best possible attention to the results of scientific research, are the speed of publication and access, the (depending on the usage licenses) options for further use and aspects of transparency and quality assurance.

In order to facilitate access to scientific literature, two strategies are often distinguished in discussion and practice: The so-called golden path is understood to mean measures that rely on open access primary publications, currently mainly open access journals. The so-called green path, on the other hand, means the additional provision of publications that have appeared in (closed-access) journals - this includes repositories and document servers.

For the golden road in particular, user licenses, which regulate open access rights and define what the public may do with the publications, are of particular importance. If the general granting of rights beyond free reading is waived, far-reaching requirements from Open Access declarations cannot / cannot be met. However, the granting of free licenses by authors sometimes collides with other aspects - e.g. if the corresponding rights have already been exclusively assigned to a publisher in advance.

In recent years, the principle of Open Access has been firmly anchored in declarations of intent from universities and research institutions, in funding conditions from third-party funding providers and now also in legislative proposals. In a diverse landscape of open access journals, publishers and repositories, most traditional science publishers now also have open access offers.

The open access movement is currently experiencing new impulses from increased developments in the areas of open research data and open science.