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Open Access: Open access and the REF


Open access and the REF

REF Requirements

To be eligible for submission to REF 2021, all peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings (with an ISSN) must be made openly available. Research England's policy took effect from 1st April 2016 and covers outputs accepted for publication on or after this date.

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

Outputs must be deposited as soon as possible after the date of acceptance and no later than 3 months after this point. For outputs accepted for publication between 1 April 2016 - 31 March 2018 the timeframe was extended to 3 months after the date of publication.


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.

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

The AAM is the corrected manuscript following peer-review but which hasn't been copy-edited or typeset 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.

For further information about Research England's REF Open Access Policy please visit their FAQ section.


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. Please see the next tabs 'Depositing in Pure' and 'Exceptions and embargoes' for further guidance.

Keep, upload, contact

Research outputs can be added to Pure, the University’s research information system, 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

Deposit workflow and guides

This workflow diagram shows the practical steps involved when depositing a research output in Pure. The process is split up between authors and Library staff. Once a research output is deposited in Pure the record will be checked by staff. We endeavor to validate items within 7 days of deposit however during busy periods it may take longer.

Information about how to use Pure is available from the Pure webpages:

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.

Please note: along with the AAM, the most important piece of data to include in your Pure record is the Acceptance Date. Without the acceptance date 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 OA Champions who work with the Library in order to make sure papers are deposited correctly.
  • Sherpa REF 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.

In some cases it is not possible to meet Research England's open access requirements. For example, whilst most publishers are happy for the author accepted manuscript (AAM) to be deposited in an open access repository, they require that an embargo be applied for a set period of time before the manuscript becomes openly available.

The REF Open Access Policy has taken 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 that it is correctly in place. The record will appear in the Research Portal however the full text will not be openly accessible until the embargo automatically lifts at the set 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 an exception. Please see below for further information about exceptions.


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

When you deposit your work in Pure and it doesn't meet the REF open access requirements, the Open Access Team will assess whether an exception can be applied. For further information about exceptions please visit Research England's FAQs page on exceptions.