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Executive summary


1. This document sets out the details of a requirement that certain research outputs should be made open-access to be eligible for submission to the next Research Excellence Framework (REF). This requirement will apply to journal articles and conference proceedings accepted for publication after 1 April 2016.

This document further updates and supersedes the previous ‘Policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework (HEFCE 2014/07), which was published in March 2014 and later updated following feedback from the sector. The only substantive change is an alteration to the timetable – see paragraph 19.

Key points

2. The policy states that, to be eligible for submission to REF 2021, authors’ outputs must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository. Deposited material should be discoverable, and free to read and download, for anyone with an internet connection. The requirement applies only to journal articles and conference proceedings with an International Standard Serial Number. It will not apply to monographs, book chapters, other long-form publications, working papers, creative or practice-based research outputs, or data. The policy applies to research outputs accepted for publication after 1 April 2016.

3. The policy allows repositories to respect embargo periods set by publications. Where a publication specifies an embargo period, authors can comply with the policy by making a ‘closed’ deposit. Closed deposits must be discoverable to anyone with an Internet connection before the full text becomes available for read and download (which will occur after the embargo period has elapsed). If still under embargo at the submission date of the next REF, closed deposits will be admissible to the REF.

4. There are a number of exceptions to the various requirements that will be allowed by the policy. These exceptions cover circumstances where deposit was not possible, or where open access to deposited material could not be achieved within the policy requirements. These exceptions will allow institutions to achieve near-total compliance, but the REF 2021 will also include a mechanism for considering any other exceptional cases where an output could not otherwise meet the requirements.

Action required

5. Higher education institutions are now advised to implement processes and procedures to comply with this policy, which may include using a combination of the ‘green’ and ‘gold’ routes to open access. Institutions can achieve full compliance without incurring any additional publication costs through article processing charges. 

Date: 15 November 2016

Ref: HEFCE 2016/35

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland
Heads of HEFCW-funded higher education institutions, Heads of SFC-funded institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Research management and administration, Library and information management

Enquiries should be directed to:

Research policy team, email, tel 0117 931 7038