REF Open Access Requirements

To be eligible for submission to the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) the final peer-reviewed manuscript of your journal OR conference papers accepted after 1 April 2016 must satisfy the following two criteria:

  1. They must have been deposited into an institutional or subject repository within 3 months of acceptance AND
  2. They must be made open access within a defined period (12 months for Science Technology, Engineering and Medicine subjects, and 24 months for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences subjects).

These open access requirements apply to articles and conference proceedings and not to other types of publication or publications that are only cited in impact case studies and not submitted in their own right. Review articles are included in this requirement.

The Open Access team has set up a simple process to help you to comply with this policy. All you need to do is forward immediately the acceptance email you receive from the publisher to the Open Access team at If possible, attach the author-final version of the paper that was accepted to the email.

Acting at point of acceptance is recommended as the author is more likely to be able to access the relevant version of the manuscript as required for REF open access compliance at that point.  That is the final agreed text of the publication before publisher logos and markup are added.

Note that items that are published gold open access are considered compliant with the REF 2021 open access policy.  The University definition of gold open access is immediate, permanent, and free to access availability of the published version of record on the publisher's website with a licence that permits copying and reuse.  If items fit this description regardless of licence or whether a payment was required they are deemed to be gold open access and compliant with the policy.


Deposit requirements

In order for an article or conference proceeding to be eligible for the REF the following must apply:

  • The output must be deposited in a repository (institutional, shared service or disciplinary). The University of Glasgow has a repository 'Enlighten' and staff in the library will provide support in collating the relevant information
  • The output must be deposited as soon as possible after acceptance and no later than three months after acceptance
  • The output deposited should be the accepted version (following peer review).  This may be the author final version (agreed text before publisher adds logos etc) or the publisher version depending on what the publisher will allow. Library staff will be able to advise.
  • The accepted version may be replaced at a later date with the published version where this is permitted by the publisher
  • Pre-prints (the version prior to peer review) are not acceptable

Discovery requirements

  • The deposited item should contain sufficient information about the content (metadata) to facilitate its discovery via search engines such as Google
  • Where an accepted version is augmented or replaced by a published version, the same metadata requirements will apply

Access requirements

  • The full text of outputs should be fully open, i.e., PDF security settings should enable searching of the text, reading and downloading
  • CC-BY-NC-ND licences are strongly recommended but not mandatory.
  • UKRI/ Wellcome funded researchers will still need to use the CC-BY licence
  • Outputs deposited without a publisher embargo on access should meet all requirements as soon as possible and no later than one month after deposit
  • Outputs deposited with an embargo should meet all requirements as soon as possible and no later than one month after the embargo period expires
  • The embargo period starts from the point of publication (includes online publication)

Exceptions and Examples

A range of exceptions can be read in the full policy at

(Clauses 252-255)

Examples include:

  • The publication requires an embargo period that is longer than that required, but is the most appropriate journal for the researcher
  • The publication does not permit any form of open access but is the most appropriate journal for the paper
  • The individual whose output is being submitted to the REF experienced a delay in securing the final peer reviewed text (for instance where the author has requested a copy from co-authors but this has not been provided)

Some author judgement will be accepted where no suitable open access option is allowed and the journal is deemed (by the author) to be the most suitable publication.

Although text mining is not essential note that credit may be given in the research environment assessment for the ability to text mine and for promoting open access.

Further announcements will be made about support for future REF submissions.  However if you have any questions regarding open access and the REF please do contact us at