What is open access?

The aim of open access is to provide unlimited access to scientific literature, offer it free of charge, and break down barriers regarding its re-use.

The open-access movement

The term "open access" was largely coined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (external link) (BOAI), which emerged in 2002 within the scope of an Open Society Institute (external link) event.

In October 2003 a conference gave rise to the so-called Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (external link). The Berlin Declaration has since been signed by over 400 organisations worldwide, including ETH Zürich, and is regarded as a major milestone in the open-access movement.


For authors

  • Greater visibility through improved search engine ranking
  • Greater citation frequency
  • Shorter publication process compared to conventional publication channels
  • Copyright remains with the author

For the academic community

  • Unlimited global access without any technical or financial obstacles
  • Good traceability of the documents and direct full-text access
  • Simplified use for further research activities
  • Facilitation of interdisciplinary and international collaboration  

You can find many more reasons for open access along with information on the existing doubts and reservations on the Open Access Information Platform (external link).


In practice, two different routes have emerged to implement Open Access:

Green routeGolden route
The "green route" pursues the self-archiving of scientific publications on an institutional or subject-specific repository.
ETH Zurich's institutional repository is the Research Collection (external link).
The publication of an article via an open access journal is referred to as the "golden route” of open-access publishing.
ETH Library provides researchers from ETH Zurich with the possibility to publish in open access journals either free of charge or at a reduced price

Open-access mandates

As a rule, it is left up to the scientific authors themselves to decide whether to make their publications freely accessible online.

An increasing number of universities, research institutes and research funders, however, explicitly request open-access publications from their members or beneficiaries.  

ETH Zurich also drafted an open-access policy in 2008.

You can find the open-access standards of key research funding institutions, such as the Swiss National Science Foundation or the European Commission, under research funders.

The Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies (external link) (ROARMAP) provides an overview of all currently active open-access mandates of research institutions and funders.


Many advocates of open access hope that the power of the large scientific publishers and their pricing policy (link opens a new window) can be broken through a publication form based on open access.  

Currently, however, no authoritative statement can be made as to whether and how open access can act as a catalyst for an altogether more cost-effective scientific publication model. The question as to how a cost-neutral transition towards such a model can be achieved also remains open.