Policy Guide
Open access research

Frequently asked questions

This page complements our policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework. It will be updated regularly to answer questions commonly asked by institutions. If these FAQs do not provide the information you need, please e-mail openaccess@hefce.ac.uk

Page last updated 11 February 2015

Deposit requirements

1. Who is responsible for depositing the output?
The author is responsible. It is a feature of this policy that it places a responsibility on authors to deposit their work and consider their open access options. We see this as the clearest way to increase awareness and uptake of open access within the research community. 
2. What about for papers with multiple authors?
We do not have a strong view on which author should deposit the output, as long as the paper is deposited by one of the authors. We see no substantial drawbacks to more than one author depositing the output. We see it as institutions’ responsibility to ensure that the outputs they are submitting to the REF are compliant with this policy. 
3. What is meant by the date of acceptance? (NEW)

The date of acceptance is the point at which the author is notified that:

  • their output has been reviewed by the journal or conference (normally via peer review)
  • all academically necessary changes have been made in response to that review
  • the article is ready to be taken through the final steps toward publication (normally copy-editing and typesetting).

By this point, the paper should have been updated to include all changes resulting from peer review as well as any changes of an academic nature requested by the journal editor or conference organiser. At this stage, the journal editor or conference organiser normally notifies the author that their paper has been ‘firmly’ accepted (as opposed to any earlier point of ‘provisional acceptance’) and the paper is ready for copy-editing or typesetting; it is the date of this notification that should be taken to mean the date of acceptance.

The author’s final, accepted manuscript is the one that has been agreed with the editor at that point. The accepted manuscript is not the same as the copy-edited, typeset or published paper – these versions are known as ‘proofs’ or ‘versions of record’ and publishers do not normally allow authors to make these open-access.‌

4. Some journals and conferences publish papers ‘as submitted’ with no peer review, editorial input, copy-editing or typesetting. What constitutes the point of acceptance in these circumstances? (NEW)

Where the journal or conference publishes papers ‘as submitted’, the date of acceptance is the date that the journal or conference confirms that the article has been received from the author and will subsequently be published in the journal or proceedings.

Where papers are not peer reviewed but are still copy-edited and typeset, the point of acceptance is the point that the journal or conference confirms receipt of the article and its readiness for taking through the publication process.

Where papers are peer reviewed but not copy-edited or typeset, the point of acceptance is the point that the peer review and editorial process has completed. 

5. Why does the policy state that deposit on acceptance is required?

The arguments for deposit on acceptance are significantly more convincing. The point of acceptance is a clearly identifiable point in the author’s workflow, which happens at the moment the author is most engaged with the publication process and at which they have their final, accepted, peer-reviewed draft to hand. Unlike the date of publication, the date of acceptance is easily identifiable and verifiable – the author is notified of acceptance in every case. For these reasons, deposit rates are higher when open-access policies require mandatory deposit on acceptance. This makes compliance less burdensome for institutions. 

We received correspondence from the Publishers Association in September 2014 on this matter, and our letter in response clarifies this further. Both letters can be found below. 

6. What is meant by ‘updated peer-reviewed manuscript’ (Policy, paragraph 19)?
In some cases, authors may make minor changes to the manuscript following acceptance (possibly as a result of copy-editing, as figures become finalised, or as rights to third-party material become secured). The author may choose to deposit the updated manuscript, augmenting or replacing the originally deposited file, and the policy allows this. As long as these changes do not result from peer review, the required date for initial deposit will not change.
7. How will the policy requirements treat papers which are posted to a subject repository? (UPDATED)

If the paper is the accepted and final peer-reviewed manuscript, is deposited within three months of acceptance, and the repository otherwise meets the requirements of the policy, then the posting would fulfil the requirements. If the paper is not the accepted and final peer-reviewed manuscript, then it would not. 

The submission process for future REF exercises (after the next exercise) could potentially involve harvesting of journal articles and conference papers from institutional repositories. We would recommend that institutions keep a record of any outputs posted in subject repositories to ensure they have a complete record of their research output in advance of preparations for the next and future REF exercises.

8. When should conference papers be deposited?
Within three months of the date of acceptance, (that is, when the changes resulting from peer review have been made, and the conference accepts the paper for publication). Conferences that do not undertake peer review of their proceedings are within scope. 
9. Are category C staff in scope?
All outputs that meet the definition are within scope. This includes outputs being submitted that were published by individuals employed by a UK HEI at the time of acceptance. 
10. Will creative writing articles that are published in academic journals need to fulfil the requirements? (NEW)
Yes, all articles published in scholarly journals are within scope. 
11. Will articles in non-academic serial publications (for example, newspapers and magazines) need to fulfil the requirements? (NEW)
No, the policy applies to scholarly publications only. Newspapers and magazines not intended for a scholarly audience are out of scope of this policy. 

Discovery requirements 

12. When do outputs need to become discoverable?
We would expect outputs to become discoverable as soon as possible after deposit to allow for maximum use of the deposited work. If authors do not wish for their paper to become discoverable until it is published, the repository record need not become discoverable (‘live’) until publication. In these circumstances, we would expect the output to be discoverable as soon as possible after the point of first publication (including any early online publication), but we encourage early discoverability. 
13. Can you explain why CC BY-NC-ND is mentioned as an acceptable licence?

We have not asked that outputs be made available under a specific licence. The open licensing landscape is complex and shifting rapidly. Publisher rules for self-archiving vary widely and are under continual review. While stable open licences have emerged, some authors, particularly in the humanities, have expressed significant concerns about these.

To provide some clarity now, we have instead set out a number of things that we would expect any reader with internet access to be able to do: to read the output, to download it, and to search electronically within it, all without charge. This level of access is a realistic minimum and is broadly achievable now for most outputs.

To be more specific, we have advised that outputs licensed under CC BY-NC-ND satisfy this minimum, as would outputs licensed under CC BY, and other more permissive open licenses.

It is our long-term expectation that further sorts of reuse beyond this minimum will become increasingly possible, which is why we are offering credit for these (see Policy, paragraph 34). 

14. How do these licensing requirements interact with other funders’ policies?
They complement each other. Authors that have received funding from the Research Councils, the Wellcome Trust or other funders that demand more permissive licenses can publish under these licenses and still fulfil our minimum requirements. 

Access requirements

15. From what start point is the embargo period active, and how can this be calculated?
Embargo periods are normally calculated from the date of first publication, including online publication, but publishers may set their own policy. If the paper is not published by the time it is deposited, the embargo end date must be entered into the repository record at a later point. Institutions may choose to ask for ‘closed’ deposits from authors, and when they know the output has been published (perhaps assisted by a publications index), they may set the embargo period based on information found in SHERPA/RoMEO. Over time, publications metadata will evolve to include embargo information, allowing for this step to be completely automated. Publishers are committed to implementing the NISO-approved <license_ref> tag to provide the publication date, the embargo end date and any licence metadata for research outputs via CrossRef.  At the discretion of publishers, this may cover green open-access; in those cases, repositories will be able to ingest these metadata from CrossRef automatically, meaning deposits can be made accessible at the end of the embargo period without any additional manual work.

Text mining and reuse; early compliance

16. The policy states that credit will be given to institutions that have presented outputs in a form that allows re-use, including text-mining. What are the detailed criteria for awarding this extra credit?

We have not yet developed the criteria for awarding credit. We are unlikely to work on this separately from our work to develop the next REF. 

This aspect of the open-access agenda is rapidly evolving, and new and innovative solutions are emerging all the time. We want to retain the flexibility to give credit to institutions finding new solutions for providing more liberal open access, without having to make predictions about what these solutions might be. 

17. How are the policy’s statements on text-mining affected by the recently announced changes to copyright law following the Hargreaves review?

We plan to discuss this with representatives from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in due course. It should be noted that the copyright changes apply to UK law only. They cannot replace the benefits of more liberal licensing to text-mining of the global literature. 

More about the Hargreaves review

18. The policy states that credit will be given to institutions which provide open access to a wider range of outputs than those specified by the policy. Does this include journal articles and conference papers accepted for publication before 1 April 2016?

We have not yet developed the criteria for awarding credit. We are unlikely to work on this separately from our work to develop the next REF. 

We strongly encourage early compliance with this policy. But we cannot offer any firm guarantees that it will lead to additional credit being given in the post-2014 REF. 


19. What work is being done to allow repository systems to adapt to these changes?
With Jisc, we are developing formal technical requirements for repositories that wish to comply with the policy. We expect that this will include the adoption of the RIOXX metadata application profile, supplemented by a number of REF-specific metadata fields that may be implemented in repositories or CRIS systems. Further announcements will follow in due course.
20. Which subject repositories meet the requirements of the policy?

At this stage, we do not intend to certify repositories as compliant with the policy – the range and diversity of repositories worldwide makes this unfeasible.

We recognise that institutions will want some assurance that external repositories are retaining information on deposits that might be required for a future REF submission or audit. The information requirements for repositories and the expected audit requirements for the post-2014 REF are being developed in a concerted way and with the full involvement of repository platform vendors. 

21. Our CRIS automatically harvests metadata from SCOPUS and other sources, which saves us from having to enter metadata for publications into our CRIS or repository manually. If records are also being created by authors at an earlier point, how can we avoid creating duplicate records, or creating lots of manual work to link metadata to deposits?

It may be desirable for deposited manuscripts to have a complete metadata record that matches the publication’s metadata exactly, but this is not necessary for open access. The journal title, paper title and author names should be enough to allow discovery, to prevent duplicates, and to allow the CRIS to feed metadata across.

The author can complete these fields easily when they deposit the paper, and we are advised that the most commonly used repository software does not allow the paper to be uploaded unless these fields are completed. We are also advised that repository software can detect and prevent duplicates.

However, we recognise that universal solutions in this area are still in development. Discussions with all stakeholders have identified a number of possible solutions, including the use of unique researcher identifiers, publisher provision of digital object identifiers (DOIs) at acceptance, and the direct updating of records by publisher systems, all of which can help streamline this process. Discussions with all stakeholders will continue, with further announcements to follow in due course. 

22. Under what circumstances would we need to move outputs from one institutional repository to another?

Where an individual being submitted to the REF has published outputs while working at a previous UK higher education institution (HEI), the submitting institution will want to assure itself that it has gathered enough information about these outputs to satisfy the requirements of this policy. Most of this information will be available from publicly available metadata, but some information about the initial deposit may not be publicly available. 

We recognise that some institutions may not wish to inquire about particular outputs held within another institutional repository during the REF submission phase. Therefore, we will not require that the new institution demonstrate compliance with the deposit requirements for these outputs, including in any audit. 

We also recognise that institutions may wish to deal with this issue in advance by holding copies of the repository records and full text of all research in their own repository. We will therefore permit institutions to undertake a bulk transfer of repository records and files on employment of new staff, as long as there is no interruption in access. We recognise that unique researcher identifiers such as ORCID can facilitate this process. 

23. Some publishers ask that institutions sign agreements before allowing access to outputs in the repository (specifying that embargo periods will be respected etc.) Must institutions sign these in order to create the conditions for compliance?
This is a question that concerns the relationship between institutions and publishers. If institutions wish to achieve open access via their institutional repository, and agreements are required by publishers in order for deposited outputs to be made open-access, then we do not see these as a barrier to compliance. If agreements are signed, we would welcome a brief report on these to be emailed to openaccess@hefce.ac.uk.

Gold open access

24. If the publication has provided access through the gold route, do authors still need to deposit their manuscripts?

Yes. The minimum requirement is that the author’s final peer-reviewed draft is deposited. Where access to the gold version of record is provided within three months of acceptance, this can be deposited instead of the final draft. If access is provided later, the gold version of record can replace an earlier deposit. 

Where it is preferred that the publication provides gold open access to the article, the deposited file may remain ‘closed’ and the repository may instead provide a hyperlink to the externally hosted version. In this case, we advise institutions to verify that the publication venue provides access in accordance with the access requirements of this policy (Policy, paragraphs 25-33). 

25. What should Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust-funded authors do when publishing by the Gold route?

Authors who receive funding from the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and a number of other funders are required to deposit their papers in Europe PubMed Central. This repository is a permitted venue for complying with the REF open-access policy requirements. However, authors, when publishing in a fully OA journal (or a hybrid journal in which they have selected the author pays option) should not deposit their accepted manuscripts in Europe PubMed Central because the final, version of record, paper will be automatically deposited by the publisher into the Europe PMC repository. 

If this automatic deposit happens within three months of acceptance, the REF deposit requirements will be met and no further action is needed by the author. If automatic deposit does not happen within three months of acceptance, the author will need to deposit their manuscript elsewhere (typically in an institutional repository) in order to meet the REF deposit requirements. 

See the full list of funders to which this applies 


26. In the Policy, paragraphs 37b and 37c, what is meant by ‘most appropriate publication for the output’, and how will this be checked?

We see this as a matter for the individual researcher and institution to judge, though the determination of the form of the REF submission is of course an institutional responsibility. We have yet to develop detailed submission and audit requirements for the post-2014 REF. But we expect we would ask institutions to show that a process was in place to allow the author or the institution to examine and consider the range of venues that allowed deposit within the rules. 

It is important that authors are aware of the rules and give serious consideration to their choice of publication venue in light of them. We therefore want to see limited uptake of these two exceptions. (It should also be noted that the outputs to which these exceptions apply must still have fulfilled the deposit requirements.)

We do not accept that journal impact factors (or the use of specific lists of acceptable journals) are an appropriate factor in the selection of publication venue.

27. Don’t the exceptions open up the policy to abuse by authors and publishers?

A sample of outputs submitted to the 2014 REF showed that 96 per cent of outputs could have complied with the access requirements had they been in place sooner (and 100 per cent of outputs could have complied with the deposit requirements). We therefore believe that the risk of abuse is small. 

If we see evidence that publishers and authors are seeking to circumvent these rules by taking disproportionate advantage of the policy’s exceptions, we will revisit these provisions with the intention of removing them. 

28. Could you give some more information about this 96 per cent figure?
Further information, including a breakdown of the figures by REF main panel, is provided in the analysis of REF 2014 submission (see below). 
29. How will the REF panels be judging exceptions submitted as ‘other’?
This has not yet been decided. A full process will be developed in the run-up to the next REF. 
30. If an institution wishes to submit an output published by an individual while at a different UK HEI, but that previous HEI had failed to comply with the policy, would there be consequences for the previous HEI?
No. The consequences for non-compliance apply to the submitting institution only. 
31. When might an output not be able to be deposited ‘for security reasons’?
In some circumstances, and in some publications, aspects of an author’s identity – particularly their institution - are not made public because their research area is sensitive or controversial. In these circumstances, the author or institution may consider that depositing the work would put the author or institution at risk. We recommend use of the appropriate exception in these circumstances. 
32. What provision will be in place for authors unable to comply with the policy due to equality and diversity issues?

The REF will continue to take account of equality and diversity issues, including those arising from clearly defined and complex staff circumstances. The funding bodies will seek to ensure that equality is embedded in all relevant elements of a future exercise, including areas covered by the Equality Act 2010 and other relevant legislation. As with all of our work, the funding bodies take very seriously the responsibility to take account of equality and diversity in the REF processes.

Where there are equality and diversity issues that cause difficulties complying with the open access policy, institutions should make use of the relevant exception in the policy, including the 'Other' exception.

Current policy development is based on the assumption that the next REF will have a provision for staff circumstances similar to that given in REF2014, but this is subject to evaluation of REF2014 and decisions about the next REF that have not yet been made. It might be that additional provisions for equality issues arising from compliance with the open-access policy can also form part of that work; we would be interested to learn of any particular issues and concerns that arise over the coming months.

33. What circumstances might mean that the individual being submitted to the REF encountered a delay securing the final, peer-reviewed text?
This is only likely where the paper has more than one author, and the individual being submitted to the REF was not responsible for corresponding with the publisher. We know that some institutions are concerned that this exception is open to abuse by authors. We do not wish to see extensive use of this exception and would expect institutions to take due care to prevent abuse. We would expect authors to make their open-access responsibilities known to other authors at an early stage, including seeking joint agreement among UK authors about deposit arrangements. 
34. If a publisher actively disallows deposit, but has a ‘hybrid’ gold OA option, is the author expected to pay the APC in order to get permission to deposit?
No. We do not wish for authors and their institutions to pay publishers for permission to deposit their work. If the publication does not allow open access to deposited works, and it is the most appropriate publication for that work, there is a relevant access exception in the policy. (This assumes the author is not already publishing via the gold route.) 
35. What exactly does ‘short-term failure’ mean? Can you provide a timeframe?
We do not wish to be specific about this. However, we do see a difference between ‘planned’ and ‘unplanned’ downtime. We would expect any ‘planned’ downtime should be considerably shorter.
36. The policy has an exception in place to deal with those individuals who were not employed by a UK HEI at the point that their work was submitted for publication. What constitutes employment? (NEW)
The individual must have a contract of employment with a UK HEI with intensity of 0.2FTE or greater. Individuals not under contract, or with a contract of intensity less than 0.2FTE, will be covered by the relevant exception in the policy.

Audit and compliance

37. What supporting information and evidence of meeting the deposit, discovery, access and exceptions should institutions retain?
We have developed a list of information that we expect institutions to retain, which can be found under 'Technical resources' on the open access research policy guide.
38. How will the RIOXX application profile help us to satisfy the REF requirements? (NEW)

The RIOXX profile is designed primarily to fulfil Research Councils UK's requirements for metadata collection and reporting on open access. It is compatible with the information and audit requirements for the open-access policy in the next REF, which also overlap with RIOXX. The REF information requirements document shows all areas where overlaps exist between RIOXX and REF.

Read the information requirements document under ‘Technical resources’.

To fulfil the metadata requirements for the open access policy in the next REF, institutions should ensure they are able to collect the information set out in the information requirements document. These include a number of fields (including relating to REF OA exceptions) that RIOXX does not cover.

Work to implement the requirements in repository and CRIS systems is underway currently. This will include work that Jisc are carrying out under the CASRAI umbrella, and various user-led initiatives. For further information, please contact openaccess@hefce.ac.uk

39. What freedom will the REF panels have to request audits of compliance with the OA policy above and beyond what has been set out in the audit requirements so far? (NEW)

There will be an audit process for the OA policy in the next REF, as set out initially in the REF audit requirements document.

Read the REF audit requirements document under ‘Technical resources'.

The REF panels will be permitted to request audits of particular outputs, but the following areas of the open-access policy are exempt from panel-initiated audit:

  • acceptance date
  • technical exceptions
  • deposit date
  • deposit exceptions
  • discovery requirements
  • embargo end date
  • free to read/download/perform in-text search
  • access exception b (embargo period)
  • access exception c (publisher disallows OA)

Arrangements for the next REF

40. What version of output will be assessed by panels in the next REF? (NEW)
It is our current intention that the panels will assess published versions of record, not accepted manuscripts, in the next REF. In establishing this policy, we have assumed that the next REF will operate in the same way as REF2014. 

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