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Open Access

Research England Open Access Policy for REF 2021

The policy requires that, in order to be eligible for Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF) journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) accepted for publication after 1 April 2016 must be made Open Access either by depositing full-text papers into an online repository or by publishing in an Open Access journal/ platform. Even if an output has been published Open Access, it it still highly recommended that the article be deposited in a repository as well. The policy does not currently apply to monographs, other long-form publications, creative or non-text outputs, or data but this is likely to change for the next cycle. You can find out more details about the policy here.

Outputs must be deposited in an institutional repository, such as UDORAat the point of acceptance for publication and no later than three months from this date. Alternatively, outputs can be deposited in a subject based repository. ResearchGate and other academic social networking sites do not count as repositories and will not be considered as such by Research England. 

The Policy Criteria

  • The policy refers to journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN.
  • This came into effect for outputs accepted for publication after 1st April 2016.
  • Deposit must be of the author's accepted and final peer reviewed manuscript. 
  • As of 1st April 2018 qualifying outputs must have a record and accompanying manuscript in a repository within 3 months of acceptance, i.e. the date when the publisher notifies the author.
  • The author's accepted and final peer reviewed version of the paper must be made accessible within 1 month after deposit or after the end of the publisher embargo period (if applicable). The maximum embargo periods are 12 months for REF Panels A and B, and 24 months for REF Panels C and D.
  • Qualifying research outputs that do not comply will not be eligible for REF submission.


Occasionally, it will not be possible for an output to fulfil the criteria. An exception is permitted in the following cases:

  1. You were not employed by a UK HEI at the point of acceptance.
  2. You did not have use of a repository at the time of acceptance.
  3. You experienced a delay securing the final peer-reviewed text (e.g. for multi-authored papers).
  4. It would be unlawful, or present a security risk, to deposit the output.
  5.  The output depends on third party content for which open access rights could not be granted.
  6. The publication concerned required an embargo period that exceeds the stated maxima, and was the most appropriate output. You will need to provide a short statement explaining this choice. 
  7. The publication concerned actively disallows open access deposit, and was the most appropriate output. You will need to provide a short statement explaining this choice. 
  8. At acceptance, you were at a different UK HEI and it has not been possible to determine compliance. 
  9. A short-term technical failure with the repository prevented compliance.
  10. A external service provider failure prevented compliance (e.g. a subject repository ceased to operate). 

Further exceptions:

  • The ‘Other exception’ which should be used where an output is unable to meet the criteria due to circumstances beyond the control of the HEI, such as periods of extended leave due to sickness. 
  • The output was not deposited three months from the date of acceptance (post 1 April 2018) but was deposited three months from the date of first online publication.  In this instance, the exception can be applied as many times as necessary as long as the output meets all other requirements. 

You can more details about criteria for exceptions in the REF 2021 Guidance on Submissions in paragraphs 252 - 255.

How to comply

To comply with the Research England policy; upon receiving notification of acceptance from your publisher, the eligible research output should have a record entered into a repository, such as UDORA, with the full-text uploaded. To comply using UDORA:

  1. Log in to the University of Derby Research System 
  2. Under 'My Record' select 'My Research Outputs' and then 'Add output'.
  3. Check journal permissions using information provided by Sherpa/Romeo which is the REF recommended tool
  4. Create a comprehensive record, completing all fields: Authors, Affiliation, Date, Title, Keywords
  5. 'Add document' and upload the final peer-reviewed version of your paper, entering an embargo period if required by the publisher.
  6. Add a Creative Commons License, if permitted and desired. 
  7. Save and 'Deposit item'. 

Guidance on Revisions to REF2021 and the Open Access requirements as a result of COVID-19

In response to the global Coronavirus pandemic, Research England have released updated guidance on outputs and their Open Access status. Where an in scope output has not been made Open Access due to effects brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak, HEIs may apply the ‘other exception’. The guidance states that this exception may apply to individual circumstances (such as ill health, caring responsibilities); other personal circumstances related to COVID-19, such as furloughed staff, health-related or clinical staff diverted to frontline services, staff resource diverted to other priority areas within the HEI  and/or external factors related to COVID-19. Please see the guidance document for further information and clarification.