In order to be eligible for the next REF, the final peer-reviewed version of journal articles and conference papers (with an ISSN) must be deposited in an open access repository within three months of acceptance for publication. HEFCW’s requirements are designed to ‘increase substantially the amount of scholarly material that is made available in an open-access form’.

About the REF

The REF was first carried out in 2014, replacing the previous Research Assessment Exercise. The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE). 

What is the REF?

Key points of the REF Open Access policy

  • applies to journal articles and conference papers (with an ISSN)
  • requires researchers to act on acceptance to deposit their final peer-reviewed text (also known as the ‘Author Accepted Manuscript’)  in a compliant open access repository within three months of the date of acceptance
  • applies to article manuscripts accepted after 1 April 2016
  • readers and search engines must be able to find out about the article straight away
  • full-text must be accessible for anyone to read and download either immediately or after the end of an embargo period
  • Embargo periods should not exceed the following: 12 months for Science and Medicine (REF Main Panels A and B); 24 months for Social Sciences and Humanities (REF Main Panels C and D)

REF Open Access FAQ

What this means for researchers

  • failure to act will make research outputs ineligible for the next REF
  • requires additional action; meeting the open access requirements of other funders is not enough
  • you still need to meet the requirements of other funders such as RCUK and Wellcome Trust

The Open Access team will check copyright and licensing conditions, create a UWTSD research repository record and make the full-text available if and when it complies with the requirements of your publisher.

Exemptions from Policy

The University and research funders recognise that there will be a small number of cases where the new open access requirements cannot be met.  We do however need to collect evidence for these exceptions and demonstrate that we have good processes in place to monitor them. This information sheet provides what you need to know.  View the Download the Open Access Policy Exemptions here (pdf)

This is the author’s accepted and final peer-reviewed text (which may otherwise be known as the ‘accepted author manuscript’ or ‘final author version’ or ‘post-print’).  This will normally be subject to the publisher’s conditions which may include an embargo period.

The final published version of the output is that which will appear in print or through the publisher’s online version of the journal (i.e. with the journal’s formatting, typesetting, pagination etc).  In most cases you will only be able to make this available on an open access basis if an APC (Article Processing Charge) has been paid under the Gold route.

This is the date when the output was ‘firmly’ accepted for publication, (which means that all peer-review changes have been made and it is ready for publication).

There is no way to know with certainty which publications may be needed for a future REF submission. Therefore researchers need to take individual and timely action for every journal article or conference proceeding that they produce. The University’s policy requires that all outputs should be submitted.

Subject repositories do not meet the metadata requirements of the policy, for example, they do not collect ‘date of acceptance’, which will be required as part of the REF submission. They also do not necessarily meet the open access requirements of HEFCW’s policy. In order to ensure your publication complies with HEFCW’s requirements, you should deposit the manuscript in UWTSD’s Open Access Research Repository.

Depositing your final accepted manuscript into UWTSD’s Open Access Research Repository doesn’t mean that it will be made open access immediately. The repository will support embargo periods where required to comply with publisher licences; please make sure to specify any embargo when submitting your work.  Library staff will check embargo periods and licenses. The manuscript will only be made openly available if and when it complies with the requirements of the funder and/or publisher.

If you have any concerns about copyright or would like further advice about embargo periods, please contact

No. It is the accepted version of your work that must be deposited in an open access repository to be eligible, not the final published version. You can choose to publish in a gold open access journal if that is the most appropriate publication for you (if funds are available or fees waived), but it is not a requirement for REF.

HEFCW’s policy sits alongside the open access policies of other funders; it does not supersede them. You still need to check and meet the requirements of your funder.

No, PhD students do not need to meet the requirement. They are covered by a policy exception, which excludes individuals not employed by a UK HEI at the time of submission for publication from the requirement to act. PhD students are however still able to deposit their publications for the policy.  The submission of PhD theses will also be covered by a separate policy, please contact the Library for further information.

The Open Access Steering Group will be monitoring readiness and numbers of deposit throughout 2016. 

Creative Commons Graphic
Adapted from the University of Oxford under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence (CC BY 3.0).  Original content at:

chat loading...