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Have you experienced this? You have published an article in a journal that is highly respected in your field, but the article is not open access but has been published behind a paywall (for example, because the journal does not offer open access options or because you were unable to finance open access). And you think to yourself: "Bummer. For this fantastic article, open access didn't work out!" However, this blanket assumption is incorrect. It is a common misconception that closed access and open access represent a crossroads and are incompatible. The solution is the so-called green route of open access – Green Open Access, for short – also known as secondary publication in German and as self-archiving in English (and therefore, the latter term is used hereinafter).

This route of open access thus makes it possible to create free access to a version of a publication that was originally not published open access. Hence, under certain conditions, open access is also possible for closed access publications. This approach has become established for journal articles in particular, but it is also sometimes possible for books (especially individual contributions in books). The publications are usually made accessible via so-called repositories, i.e. document servers with the purpose of making scientific publications available. Most academic institutions operate such repositories for their members, but there are also discipline-specific repositories that are available to academics from a particular academic subject area. There are never any costs for authors.

Below we explain the legal grounds on which self-archiving may be undertaken and what you need to bear in mind. You will also find five tips to make self-archiving easier in future.