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Open Access: Open access and the REF

The REF 2021 publication period closed on 31 December 2020 but researchers should continue to comply with the requirements of the REF2021 OA policy:

Open access and the REF

REF Requirements

Research England will launch a consultation on the future REF Open Access policy following the outcome of the UKRI OA review. The Research England Open Research page includes the following statement:

"The UK HE funding bodies recognise that due notice will be needed prior to implementation of the OA policy for the REF-after-REF2021, which will be consulted on after UKRI's OA policy is announced. The OA policy for the REF-after-REF2021 will not come into effect on 1 January 2021 (that is, at the beginning of the publication period for the REF-after-REF 2021 exercise). The REF2021 OA policy should be followed until further notice."


Research England's open access policy for REF2021 requires: all peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings (with an ISSN) to be made openly available. The policy took effect from 1st April 2016 and covered 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 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.

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.


All outputs covered by the REF 2021 Open Access policy (journal articles and conference proceedings published with an ISSN) must meet the requirements of the policy to be eligible for the REF. However, there are a number of exceptions to the policy which may apply to specific papers or individuals submitting to REF 2021. These exceptions are outlined in the REF 2021 Open Access policy.

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.

If you believe your publication is eligible for an exception please contact the open access team.

Deposit exceptions

The following exceptions deal with cases where the output is unable to meet the deposit requirements. In the following cases, the output will not be required to meet any of the open access criteria (deposit, discovery or access 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 (for instance, where a paper has multiple authors).

  • 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, where allowed, 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. In the following cases, the output will not be required to meet the open access criteria (deposit, discovery or access requirements).

  • 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 (for instance, 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. This exception does not need to be applied retrospectively to outputs compliant with the policy from 1 April 2016 to 1 April 2018 which fulfilled the policy requirements within three months of publication.

For further information about exceptions please visit Research England's FAQs page on exceptions.