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Open Access: Open access and the REF

Open access and the REF

REF Open Access Requirements

The Research Excellence Framework 2029 open access consultation was launched on 18 March 2024. The consultation, which runs until 17 June 2024, outlines the proposed policy for REF 2029. Following this consultation, the final REF 2029 Open Access Policy will be developed and implemented. The final policy is expected in the summer or autumn of 2024.

Until then, the REF 2021 OA policy should be followed until further notice.

Research England's open access policy for REF 2021 requires: all peer-reviewed journal articles and conference outputs published in proceedings with an ISSN to be made openly available. The policy took effect from 1 April 2016 and covers outputs accepted for publication on or after this date. The current REF publication period commenced on 1 January 2021; outputs with a first online (epub) publication date from this date onwards need to be open access in order to be eligible for submission to REF 2029.

Unless a payment has been made to make your work immediately open access on the publisher's website, Research England require that you deposit your author accepted manuscript (AAM) into an open access repository such as Pure.

Outputs must be deposited as soon as possible after the date of acceptance and no later than 3 months after this point. 

Date of acceptance

The date of acceptance is the point at which you are formally notified (e.g. by email) from your publisher that they have accepted your work for publication. It traditionally follows peer review and any subsequent changes which may result from this process, but is normally before the copy-editing and typesetting stage.

Important: the full acceptance date (YYYY/MM/DD) is required as, without the full acceptance date, we are unable to calculate whether your research output complies with REF requirements.

Date of publication

The date of publication is the earliest date that the final published version is released by the publisher. In most cases, this is the online publication date (rather than the print publication date).

Author accepted manuscript (AAM)

The AAM is your final draft, including any changes made after peer review, but without any copy editing or typesetting by the publisher. It is often a Word document, LaTeX file, or PDF. Research England's diagram to the right illustrates which version is needed.

If you need further guidance, please contact

Once you have deposited your AAM in Pure, the Open Access Team review the record and, where possible, ensure compliance with the REF open access requirements. They will contact you if your output is not compliant and further action or information is needed.

Keep, upload, contact

Research outputs can be added to Pure, the University’s research information system and repository, so that they are publicly available via the Research Portal. To ensure that you meet the REF's open access requirement, all you need to remember are these three easy steps:

  1. your Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM)
  2.   the AAM to Pure as soon as it is accepted for publication*
  3.  the Open Access Team for help or advice

*If the final version of your research output is to be published immediately open access with a Creative Commons licence, you do not need to deposit your accepted manuscript in Pure. Instead, in the Bibliographical Note box in the Pure record, please indicate: ‘publishing OA'.  

Deposit workflow and guides

This workflow diagram shows the practical steps involved when depositing a research output in Pure. The process is split between authors and the Library.

Once a research output is deposited in Pure the record will be checked by the Open Access Team. We endeavour to validate 'REFable' outputs (i.e. peer-reviewed journal articles and conference outputs to be published in proceedings with an ISSN) within 7 working days of deposit; however, during busy periods it may take longer.

Information about how to use Pure is available from the Pure web pages:

A visual step-by-step guide showing how to deposit your research in Pure is also available. We have also created a self-archiving guide which you may find useful.

Important: the full acceptance date (YYYY/MM/DD) is required as, without this, we are unable to calculate whether your research output complies with REF requirements.

Tools for helping with REF compliance

  • Every month the Open Access Team produces a temperature report which assesses whether outputs added to Pure are openly available. The report is sent to Directors of Research, OA Champions and Faculty Research Managers who work with the Library in order to make sure papers are deposited correctly and papers are open access according to REF requirements.
  • Sherpa Romeo helps authors and institutions decide whether a journal allows them to comply with the REF policy, and what to do when it does and when it does not.


Whilst most publishers are happy for the author accepted manuscript (AAM) to be deposited in an open access repository, some require that an embargo be applied for a set period of time before the manuscript becomes openly available.

The REF Open Access Policy takes into account these requirements as well as a number of other exceptions.

If your publisher requires that an embargo be applied to your AAM, the Open Access Team will make sure it is correctly in place. The record for your output will appear in the Research Portal however the full text will not be openly accessible until the embargo automatically lifts at the set end date. Embargo periods should not exceed the following:

  • 12 months for REF Main Panel A and REF Main Panel B
  • 24 months for REF Main Panel C and REF Main Panel D

If the embargo exceeds these time periods, but the journal is the most appropriate place to publish your work, then we can add a REF exception. Please see below for further information about exceptions.

Please contact if you have any questions about embargoes.


All outputs covered by the REF2021 Open Access policy (journal articles and conference proceedings published with an ISSN) must meet the requirements of the policy to be eligible for submission to the REF. However, there are a number of exceptions which may apply to specific papers or individuals submitting to REF2029.

The policy takes into account a number of scenarios which may mean it's not possible to make your work openly available on the same terms as Research England require. Exceptions (listed below) fall under four categories: deposit, access, technical, and other.

If you believe your publication is eligible for an exception to the open access requirements of the next REF please complete this form or contact 

For auditing purposes, you will be required to supply an explanation of the circumstances/difficulties you encountered in meeting the requirements.  Remember that in most cases you will still need to deposit a copy of the author accepted manuscript.

Deposit exceptions

The following exceptions deal with cases where the output is unable to meet the deposit requirements:

  • At the point of acceptance, it was not possible to secure the use of a repository.

  • There was a delay in securing the final peer-reviewed text (AAM)

  • The staff member to whom the output is attributed was not employed on a Category A eligible contract by a UK HEI at the time of submission for publication.

  • It would be unlawful to deposit, or request the deposit of, the output.

  • Depositing the output would present a security risk.

Access exceptions

The following exceptions deal with cases where deposit of the output is possible, but there are issues to do with meeting the access requirements. In the following cases, the output will still be required to meet the deposit and discovery requirements, but not the access requirements. A closed-access deposit will be required.

  • The output depends on the reproduction of third-party content for which open access rights could not be granted (either within the specified timescales, or at all).

  • The publication concerned requires an embargo period that exceeds the stated maxima, and was the most appropriate publication for the output

  • The publication concerned actively disallows open-access deposit in a repository, and was the most appropriate publication for the output.

Technical exceptions

The following exceptions deal with cases where an output is unable to meet the criteria due to a technical issue.

  • At the point of acceptance, the staff member to whom the output is attributed was employed at a different UK HEI, and it has not been possible to determine compliance with the criteria.

  • The repository experienced a short-term or transient technical failure that prevented compliance with the criteria (this should not apply to systemic issues).

  • An external service provider failure prevented compliance (eg a subject repository did not enable open access at the end of the embargo period, or a subject repository ceased to operate).

Further exceptions

Two further exceptions to the policy are outlined below:

  • Other exception. Other exception should be used where an output is unable to meet the criteria due to circumstances beyond the control of the HEI, including extenuating personal circumstances of the author (such as periods of extended leave), industrial action, closure days, and software problems beyond those listed in the technical exceptions. If ‘other’ exception is selected, the output will not need to meet the open access criteria (deposit, discovery or access requirements).

  • The output was not deposited within three months of acceptance date, but was deposited within three months of the earliest date of publication. In this instance, the output will need to meet all other policy requirements.

Please contact if you have any questions about REF exceptions.