Skip to Main Content

Research Support: Open Access for REF

Advice and support for scholarly communications.

Open Access for REF

REF Open Access publication requirements

The guidance below applied to REF 2021, and will apply to publications accepted for publication until new REF Open Access guidance is released.

In order for a journal article or a conference proceeding to be eligible for submission for REF, it must be made open access within three months of the acceptance date.  This applies to all journal articles and conference proceedings, with an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), accepted for publication after 1 April 2016

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, author accepted manuscript (AAM), 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 a publisher makes an article freely available on publication with a licence that permits sharing - usually a Creative Commons (CC) licence.

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.

How to ensure your output meets the Open Access requirements

You can achieve Green open access by depositing your research output in QMU's institutional repository eResearch.  As soon as possible after your article is accepted for publication, please send your accepted manuscript version and date of acceptance, ideally with your acceptance email or letter, to eResearch.  Repository staff will check embargo periods and publisher permissions and create a record for your output.  We will then notify you when this is complete and ask that you double check the record to ensure the details are correct. 

More information