REF Open Access Requirements

The REF open access consultation closed on 17th June 2024 and details of the requirements are expected to be announced before the end of 2024.

Until any new guidance is issued the final peer-reviewed manuscript of your journal or conference papers must satisfy the following criteria to be eligible for submission to the next Research Excellence Framework (REF): 

  1. They must have been deposited into an institutional or subject repository within 3 months of acceptance.
  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 (including review articles) and formal conference proceedings with an International Standard Serial Number. They do not apply to other types of publications or to publications that are only cited in impact case studies and not submitted in their own right.

Items are also compliant with the REF open access policy if they are published with 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 compliant with the policy.

The Open Access team has set up a simple process to help you to comply with this policy. All you need to do is

  1. forward immediately the acceptance email you receive from the publisher to the Open Access team at Do this even if the author-accepted manuscript is not due until after the acceptance.
  2. attach the author-accepted manuscript of the paper that was accepted to the email, if possible. That is the final agreed text of the publication before publisher logos and markup are added.
  3. include the text of any acknowledgement of past or present funding, with funders’ reference numbers, in your author-accepted manuscript or in your email to if the author-accepted manuscript is not available.

Acting at point of acceptance is recommended. 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. 

It is University of Glasgow approach to assess all articles and conference proceedings against the REF Open Access criteria. Any published article or conference proceeding should address the REF open access requirements regardless of whether it is peer-reviewed, invited, commissioned, or commentary. Those that constitute original research as defined by REF are potentially eligible for REF. More information on this can be found in the Guidance on Submissions document in Annex C and in Part 3, Section 2.  

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


Deposit requirements

For an article or formal 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: Publications), and staff in the library will provide support in collating the relevant information.
    • If you produced research outputs before coming to the University of Glasgow, we recommend you add any papers, books and reports to Enlighten. They will be considered for REF if they fit the criteria, can be publicised on your staff profile and other sites that use Enlighten, and be included in your annual review.
    • If you deposit in a third-party repository, send the deposit information, including a link, to with confirmation that it is the author-accepted manuscript.
    • Records will be retained in Enlighten for individuals who leave the University.
  • 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-accepted manuscript (agreed text before publisher adds logos, etc.) or the publisher version depending on what the publisher will allow. Sherpa Romeo can give you a guide as to what the publisher allows, or you may check the journal policy. Library staff will be able to advise about individual journals if a policy is unclear.
  • 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. See Pre-print guidance for details.

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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.


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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.
  • A minimum of a CC-BY-NC-ND licence is strongly recommended but not mandatory.
  • However, 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).


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Exceptions and Examples

A range of exceptions can be read in the full guidance on submissions (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.


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