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Open Access and the REF: Requirements

Open Access and the Research Excellence Framework

REF 2020-2021

The REF 2021 publication period closed on 31 December 2020, and the next REF publication cycle began on 1 January 2021.

Researchers should continue to comply with the requirements of the REF 2021 Open Access (OA) policy. 

Research England will launch a consultation on the future REF OA 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 next REF, which will be consulted on after UKRI's OA policy is announced… The REF 2021 OA policy should be followed until further notice."

The REF 2021 Open Access policy applies from 1 April 2016 to:

  • Articles published in scholarly journals with an ISSN.
  • Full length conference papers published with an ISSN.

Note – this does not apply to chapters, monographs, abstracts, posters or presentations – but these should also have full-text uploaded to Pure on publication (where these can be made available they will, all publisher policies will be respected).

These research outputs must be deposited within three months of acceptance or they will be ineligible for submission to the REF.


Exceptions are available for research outputs that cannot meet the deposit, access or technical requirements of the policy, however, most research outputs will not qualify for exceptions to the policy.

If a research output is not deposited within three months of acceptance and it does not qualify for an exception, then the output will not be eligible for submission in REF 2021*.

*1 output or up to 5% of outputs in scope within a unit of assessment may be submitted to the REF if they are non-compliant.


Five steps to compliance

Follow our five simple steps to compliance. All staff and PGRs publishing journal articles or conference proceedings should upload their accepted manuscripts to Pure as soon as their output is accepted for publication.

The accepted manuscript is the author’s final created version after peer review but before typesetting or copy-editing by the publisher. It is usually a Word or a LaTex file and may have been formatted using a publisher’s template.

  • Submit to publisher- Submitted version, author’s original, preprint
  • Peer review
  • Edit- accepted version, post print, AAM
  • Accepted by publisher
  • Copy editing and type setting
  • Publication
  • Submitted version Author’s original- published version, version record.