Open Access for REF

The higher education funding bodies are consulting on proposed open access requirements for REF 2029, which include significant changes and adjustments to the current REF2021 policy.

The Library and RQI are coordinating an institutional response to the consultation and welcome input & opinion from across the Schools and PS divisions. Please submit your response at this page.

Informal feedback on the consultation questions can also be emailed to

Please continue to follow the current REF2021 policy until further notice (details below). 

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
  • 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.

Deposit exceptions

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.

Access exceptions

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.

Technical exceptions

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

Other exceptions

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.

Further information

Read the UKRI / Research England Open Access Research document and the REF Guidance on submissions or their FAQs

Contact the Library Research Support team for support with Open Access questions and Sussex Research Online on 01273 877941 or

Find out more about Open Access

RQI team:

Library SRO support: