Document servers, online archives and other repositories: which is the most suitable repository for your publication?


Repositories are databases or electronic archives. A distinction is made between institutional and subject repositories. Institutional repositories are located at a specific institution and cover a broad range of subjects, while subject repositories focus on a specific discipline and archive publications from authors working at various institutions. 

Both types of repository make publications openly accessible on a permanent basis, thereby increasing their visibility. Repositories are also integrated in search engines and subject portals to further improve their accessibility. 

The decision on which repository you choose depends on your personal preferences and the subject of your work. In some disciplines, the archiving of publications in a specific repository has become a quasi standard, while in other disciplines this is less clear-cut.

There are a number of search engines that enable users to search for open access publications across multiple repositories and electronic journals, including the following two services:

OAIster: Partial database run by WorldCat, which links to open access documents at libraries worldwide and provides access to the full texts.

BASE: The "Bielefeld Academic Search Engine", which is run by Bielefeld University Library, gathers the data from repositories and provides a searchable database of all the archived documents.

In addition, publications and repositories are generally also covered by Internet search engines such as Google.

How do I find a suitable repository?

To begin with, you have to decide between an institutional or subject repository. This decision need not be exclusive, however. As a general rule, it's possible to archive your publications in multiple repositories as long as you have the exploitation rights required to do this. 

Nowadays many universities have their own institutional repository in which documents can be archived. Many of these repositories are run by the university library, and they often also serve as an archive for university papers, particularly theses. 

The Leibniz Association runs an open access portal known as LeibnizOpen which allows users to search for publications issued by members of Leibniz institutes and access the full texts. The majority of the institutes that belong to the Helmholtz Association have their own repository (overview in German)

The Fraunhofer Association and Max Planck Society research organisations both run their own repositories: Fraunhofer e-Prints and MPG.PuRE. Members of the institutes are required to archive their publications in the organisation's own repository. 

A number of search platforms now enable users to search for repositories:

  • The platform OpenDOAR is an authoritative directory of open access repositories. The overview is based on self-reporting by repository operators so is not necessarily complete. The entries are checked as part of the site's quality control process. 
  • The website of the German Initiative for Network Information (DINI) includes a list of German repositories (in German). This overview also contains information on which of the repositories have received a 'DINI Certificate'. In order to receive this certificate, repositories must fulfil certain technical and legal criteria which conform to national and international standards and the technical state-of-the-art. The certificate provides a form of quality assurance and ensures interoperability. 
  • The repository ZENODO is a higher-level repository which is not tied to either a specific institution or a specific subject area. It allows users to deposit not only academic publications, but also other formats including research data. The repository is managed and developed by CERN in Geneva. It was set up using EU funds and forms part of a Europe-wide open access infrastructure.

Repositories with a focus on life sciences

ZB MED runs a Repository for Life Sciences which offers authors the chance to self-archive their work in a reliable location that offers permanent availability. 

PubMed Central

PubMed Central (PMC) is an electronic archive of journal literature run by the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM). The National Library of Medicine is responsible for selecting and acquiring biomedical literature and resources and for archiving publications. PubMed Central provides access to biomedical and life sciences literature.

All authors funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are required to deposit the postprint version of their article in PubMed Central as soon as their publication is accepted and to make their publication openly accessible within a period of 12 months. 

The NLM also has an agreement with various publishers who deposit original publications from their journals directly in PMC as a service to authors while still respecting the stipulations imposed by funders. Some of the publishers have chosen PMC's "full participation" option and have provided PubMed Central with access to their complete contents. 

The publishers benefit from this cooperation. The NLM takes on the responsibility of archiving journal issues in order to ensure permanent access to life sciences and biomedical knowledge. PMC also operates two international repositories: Europe PMC and PMC Canada. These two regional databases include all the content available in the U.S. version, with just a few exceptions. Both the international repositories also allow further articles to be deposited in accordance with the requirements of the funders located in each region. 

List of publishers cooperating with PubMedCentral


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).