Open Access for REF 2021
The REF 2021 publication period closed on 31 December 2020 but researchers should continue to comply with the requirements of the REF 2021 OA policy until further notice.
Research England launched a consultation on the future REF OA policy following the outcome of the UKRI OA review. More information on the review's findings can is available here; more detailed guidance on the Open Access requirements for REF2028 will be released in October/November 2023 and this page will be updated accordingly.
REF2021 requirements & information
- The basics
Non-compliant items will not be eligible for the next REF. The majority of outputs will be able to comply with the REF Open Access requirements as follows:
- Check if your journal permits self-archiving of papers, and whether the embargo date is a maximum of 12 months (for REF panels A&B) or 24 months (for REF panels C&D)
- Upload the accepted version of your article or conference paper to SRO as soon as it has been accepted.
- How is Open Access defined in this policy?
The REF policy states that to be considered OA, the output must allow anyone with internet access to search electronically within the text, read it and download it without charge, and must be discoverable to anyone with an internet connection, and to search engines.
- What outputs does this cover?
The policy applies to outputs accepted after 1st April 2016. The policy applies to journal articles and published conference proceedings where the conference publishes 'online, journal-like series of proceedings (typically within the sciences)'. These typically have an ISSN. Conferences that publish books or book-like outputs (typically in the humanities) are not intended to be in scope of the policy, however we would encourage deposit of accepted manuscripts for these items as well.
- How can an output comply?
To comply, the final peer-reviewed manuscript of all articles and conference proceedings must be deposited in an open access institutional or subject repository within 3 months of acceptance. This does not need to be the publisher's PDF which most publishers do not permit to be used in a repository. Authors should deposit their accepted version which is the version post peer review but before any copyediting or layout work has taken place. The accepted version is sometimes called the author's final version, AAM or post-print.
- What are the permitted embargo periods?
Most publishers will allow the deposit of the author's accepted manuscript in repositories such as Sussex Research Online, but many will not allow the paper to be made freely available immediately and will impose an embargo period. The policy states that outputs must be deposited in a repository within 3 months of acceptance, but that they can be locked and made freely available to read after an embargo period of no more than 12 months (for REF panels A&B) and 24 months (for REF panels C&D).
- Do I need to deposit in a repository if the article was published as Gold OA
At Sussex we ask that you deposit your article in SRO via Elements even if it was published as Gold OA.
- Is there any specific licence requirement?
The policy does not ask for a specific licence as long as the reader is able to read the output, to download it, and to search electronically within it, all without charge. Outputs licenced under CC BY-NC-ND (or more permissive) would meet these requirements.
- What if the output doesn't comply?
In certain circumstances a paper can be submitted to the REF even though it does not comply with the REF Open Access Policy. Permitted exceptions are outlined on the Exceptions for the REF page alongside the action that authors need to take. It is always better to seek advice as early as possible in the process.
- School policies
Global Studies Open Access Guidance November 2017 [PDF 99.39KB]
- Exceptions for the REF 2021 Open Access policy
In certain circumstances a paper can be submitted to the REF even though it does not comply with the REF Open Access Policy. Permitted exceptions are outlined below alongside the action that authors need to take.
Exceptions are recorded in SRO by the Library Research Support team but in many cases will need to be agreed with Directors of Research or the RQI team. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, even if an exception applies the accepted manuscript should be added to SRO within 3 months of acceptance. It is always better to take action or seek advice sooner rather than later to minimise the risk of an output becoming ineligible for REF submission.
The following exceptions deal with cases where the output is unable to meet the deposit requirements, or has been made open access via another route.
- 1. Individual was unable to secure the use of a repository
Not applicable - all Sussex authors have access to SRO via Elements. New starters from other institutions are covered by other provisions below (exceptions 3 or 10).
- 2. Individual experienced a delay securing the accepted manuscript (eg for multi-authored papers)
Authors should make all reasonable efforts to get hold of the manuscript from the corresponding author, or from other co-authors. Where the author is unable to secure a copy of the manuscript in time, they should notify the RQI team (firstname.lastname@example.org), who will agree the exception. The exception will then be added to SRO by the Library.
- 3. Individual was not employed by a UK HEI at the point of acceptance
New staff should add details of their outputs in the current REF period (since 1 Jan 2014) to SRO or ask School staff to do so in line with their agreed support. If School staff are adding on behalf of a new academic who was not employed by a UK HEI they should alert Library SRO staff to their date of arrival by noting this in the ‘Notes to SRO staff field’ for each output which was accepted before their start date at Sussex and Library staff will apply the exceptions on SRO.
- 4. It would be unlawful to deposit, or request the deposit of, the output
To be handled on a case-by-case basis. Contact RQI for discussion if this applies to your output.
- 5. Depositing the output would present a security risk
To be handled on a case-by-case basis. Contact RQI for discussion if this applies to your output.
- 6. The output was published as Gold open access
Exceptions for such outputs will be set in SRO by Library staff. This will happen on deposit for publications in pure Gold journals (eg PLoS ONE), and on publication for Gold articles in hybrid journals (which offer Gold as an option not as default) so that the Gold status can be confirmed.
The following exceptions deal with cases where deposit of the output is possible but there are issues with meeting the access requirements. The accepted manuscript should still be deposited as soon as possible.
- 7. Output depends on third party content for which open access rights could not be granted
The author deposits outputs as normal in SRO at the point of acceptance, but should notify Library staff about the third party content where the open access rights could not be granted.
- 8. The output requires an embargo period that exceeds the stated maxima, and was the most appropriate publication for the output
Where a journal has an embargo period that is too long, authors should follow the process outlined in the REF Open Access Exceptions Process document i.e. discussing alternative options with their DRKE and recording the details of why it was the most appropriate publication for the research. If the decision is to publish in the journal, then the accepted manuscript should be uploaded to SRO within 3 months of acceptance. It will not be made openly available until the journal’s embargo period has ended. If the embargo period is the only reason for non-compliance then the Library staff will add this exception when the item is deposited.
- 9. The publisher actively disallows open access deposit in a repository and was the most appropriate publication for the output
Where a journal does not allow open access at all, authors should follow the process outlined in the REF Open Access Exceptions Process document i.e. discussing alternative options with their DRKE and recording the details of why it was the most appropriate publication for the research. If the decision is to publish in the journal, then the accepted manuscript should be uploaded to SRO within 3 months of acceptance. It will not be made openly available. If the disallowed OA is the only reason for non-compliance then the Library staff will add this exception when the item is deposited.
The following exceptions deal with cases where an output is unable to meet the criteria due to a technical issue.
- 10. At acceptance, the individual was at a different UK HEI that failed to comply
New staff should add details of their outputs in the current REF period (since 1 Jan 2014) to SRO or ask School staff to do so in line with their agreed support. If School staff are adding on behalf of a new academic/research colleague who was previously at a different UK HEI, they should alert Library SRO staff to this by noting their date of arrival in the ‘Notes to SRO staff field’ for each output accepted before their start date at Sussex and Library staff will apply the exceptions on SRO. We are not required to seek and retain evidence of the previous HEI's compliance with the deposit requirements and so this exception will be used for all items accepted before the author came to Sussex. If the output was deposited with a repository at a previous institution please also include this in ‘Notes to SRO staff’ and the information that this item was compliant elsewhere can be recorded if freely available
- 11. A short-term technical failure within the repository prevented compliance
If there is a short-term technical failure authors should add their output as soon as possible after it has been resolved.
- 12. An external service provider failure prevented compliance (eg a subject repository ceased to operate)
Unlikely to be applicable - Sussex authors should add their work to SRO even if they also add a copy to a subject repository to increase dissemination
In very exceptional cases, it may not be possible for an output to meet the open access requirements for a reason not covered by the exceptions listed above and it may be appropriate to record an ‘Other’ exception giving an explanation of why the requirements could not be met. Other exceptions will be handled on a case-by-case basis and authors should contact RQI to discuss. Please raise the issue as soon as possible after it arises.
Contact the Library Research Support team for support with Open Access questions and Sussex Research Online on 01273 877941 or email@example.com
RQI team: firstname.lastname@example.org
Library SRO support: email@example.com