Skip to main content

Research Support: REF 2021

Open Researcher and Contributor ID

REF 2021 and Open Access

REF 2021 Open Access publication requirements

The four main UK higher education funding bodies, including the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Research England, have announced their policy for open access in REF 2021.

Essentially, all journal articles and conference proceedings, with an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), accepted for publication after 1 April 2016 must be made available on an open access basis.

The policy does not apply to monographs or other long form publications, to non-text outputs, research data, conference proceedings published with an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), or publications that must remain confidential for security or commercial reasons.

Open access criteria





Journal article or Conference Proceeding with an ISSN

to be deposited in an institutional repository (eResearch), or a subject repository (e.g. PubMed Central)

no later than 3 months after the date of acceptance from 1 April 2018.

(Research England advise they will introduce an exception to the policy after 1 April 2018, allowing outputs unable to meet deposit timescales to remain compliant if they are deposited up to three months after the date of publication) 

to be the 'final author version' or 'post-print' which can be replaced with the final published PDF version at a later date.

Further details available on the REF 2021 Guidance webpage.

Embargo periods

Any embargo periods imposed by journal publishers must not exceed the following lengths:

  • 12 months for REF Main Panels A and B
  • 24 months for REF Main Panels C and D

Outputs still under embargo can be selected for the next REF provided that the date of first publication is still within the REF reporting period.

Version to use

Use the final draft author manuscript, as accepted for publication, including modifications based on referees' suggestions, but before it has undergone copy-editing and proof correction. This is sometimes known as the post-print, author version, or personal copy. It is important to have the correct version of the file to upload and to check for copyright restrictions. It is often not permissible to make the publisher’s version accessible via an institutional repository. The SHERPA/RoMEO website can help you to find out more about a journal or publisher’s copyright restrictions. Alternatively, please contact the Library's eResearch Team for assistance.


There are a limited number of situations where an output may be exempt from the open access policy, which fall under the headings deposit, access and technical exceptions. Exceptions to the policy can also be made for 'gold' open access papers, where an article processing charge (APC) has been paid to the publisher.

Any output that falls within the scope of this policy and is submitted to the post-2014 REF but does not meet the requirements without a valid exception will be given an unclassified score and will not be assessed.