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The four UK HE funding bodies believe that the outputs of research should be as widely accessible as possible. For this reason, we have introduced a new policy for open access in relation to research assessments after the 2014 REF. 

The policy states that, to be eligible for submission to the REF 2021, authors’ final peer-reviewed manuscripts must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository. Deposited material should be discoverable, and free to read and download, for anyone with an internet connection. 

The requirement applies only to journal articles and conference proceedings with an International Standard Serial Number. It will not apply to monographs, book chapters, other long-form publications, working papers, creative or practice-based research outputs, or data. The policy applies to research outputs accepted for publication after 1 April 2016.

Note: From 1 April 2018 the REF 2021 Open Access policy will require outputs to be deposited as soon after the point of acceptance as possible, and no later than three months after this date.

We will introduce a deposit exception in to the policy from 1 April 2018. This exception will allow outputs unable to meet this deposit timescale, to remain compliant if they are deposited up to three months after the date of publication.

The exception reads: ‘The output was not deposited within three months of acceptance date, but was deposited within three months of the earliest date of publication.’ This exception will remain in place for the rest of the REF 2021 publication period.

Policy documents

The policy documents may be found at the following links:

  • Policy for open access in the next Research Excellence Framework (updated November 2016) (HEFCE 2016/35)
  • Decisions on staff and outputs in the next Research Excellence Framework (REF2017/04)
  • Open access in the Research Excellence Framework: extension of flexibility (HEFCE Circular letter 32/2016)
  • Open access in the next Research Excellence Framework: policy adjustments and qualifications (HEFCE Circular letter 20/2015)

Communications resources

To assist with communication of the policy within institutions, we have put together a printable poster. Please feel free to reuse this.

Download the poster

Download the Repository_REF_poster as PDF (924 KB)

Download the poster in black and white

Download the Repository_REF_poster_black_and_white as PDF (2,879 KB)

Page last updated 21 November 2017

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