REF2021 and Open Access 

The four main UK higher education funding bodies, including the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the now defunct Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) replaced by Research England, have recently announced their policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). 

The policy requires that, in order to be eligible for submission in the next REF, all journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN number that have been accepted for publication on or after 1 April 2016 must be publicly accessible through an institutional or subject repository within 3 months of acceptance for publication. 

The policy does not apply to monographs or other long form publications, to non-textual outputs, research data, conference proceedings published with an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), or publications that must remain confidential for security or commercial reasons.

Outputs Repository Requirements Time Lines Version(s)

Journal Articles


Conference Proceedings with ISSN Number

Institutional repository (AURA); deposit through PURE

Subject repositories - arXiv; PubMed Central

Within 3 months of acceptance for publication


Where embargo applies, depaosit must be made and metadata must be discoverable within 3 months of acceptance for publication

Acceptable embargo periods:

  • 12 months - Panels A, B (STEM)
  • 24 months - Panels C, D (HASS)
Final author version or 'post-print' which can be replaced with the final version at a later date

REF Open Access – Frequently Asked Questions 

  • To help you prepare for the Open Access Policy we have provided a downloadable guide.

  • Detailed guidance is currently under development in several policy areas and will be published in the Guidance on Submissions in summer 2018. See here for updates as available. 

  • The full HEFCE policy can be accessed here 

  • The funding councils have also published a FAQ document which is here 

  • A list of library staff who can provide advice and support is available from the Help and Support tab below. 

Open Access Information sessions March/April 2015: 

Any output that falls within the scope of this policy and is submitted to the post-2014 REF but does not meet the requirements without a valid exemption will be given an unclassified score and will not be assessed. 

What should researchers do? 

The REF open access policy formally applies to papers accepted after 1 April 2016. The funding councils expect institutional compliance much sooner than that, so we are asking for accepted manuscripts from 1 April 2015. 

Any questions? See our Help and Support information in the tab below or E-mail