Open access vs. closed access

What's the difference between publishing in open access journals and in non-open access journals?

Journal articles which are open access are freely available on the Internet and openly accessible to everyone. That makes these articles more likely to be used and cited. In contrast, articles which appear in non-open access journals are initially only visible to people at institutions which have a licence for these specific journals.

Since open access journals place an emphasis on improving visibility and accessibility, they are exclusively published in an electronic format. In contrast, non-open access journals often offer a print edition of the journal in addition to an electronic version. 

A stubborn prejudice persists that open access journals are somehow inferior when it comes to journal publications. This view is not supported by the facts. Open access journals also use the peer review process, and some journals have a Journal Impact Factor. 

It is probable that the number of open access journals with a Journal Impact Factor will continue to rise. Studies have shown that improved visibility leads to a citation impact advantage.

Open access has now been made obligatory by foreign funders whose sponsorship area includes Germany. The reach of these requirements will undoubtedly expand in the years ahead, which is why academics and researchers need to get to grips with this topic as soon as possible. 

See also

What does the term 'open access' mean?
Journal Impact Factor and alternatives: what are the key issues involved here?


Important note: The information and links provided here do not represent any form of binding legal advice. They are solely intended to provide an initial basis to help get you on the right track. ZB MED – Information Centre for Life Sciences has carefully checked the information included in the list of FAQs. However, we are unable to accept any liability whatsoever for any errors it may contain. Unless indicated otherwise, any statements concerning individual statutory norms or regulations refer to German law (FAQ updated 11/2017).


Jasmin Schmitz,

Dr. Jasmin Schmitz
Head of Publication Advisory Services

Phone: +49 (0)221 478-32795
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Related Links

Schmitz, J. (2014). Peer Review. In Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) (Hrsg.), CoScience – gemeinsam forschen und publizieren mit dem Netz. Hannover, TIB. (German only)