REF compliance


REF Research Excellence Framework | Open Access | Pure

What do I do to ensure an output is eligible for the REF?

In simplest form, for a journal article or conference proceeding to be eligible for the next REF it needs to satisfy 3 crucial points:

  • the author accepted manuscript (AAM), sometimes called the author final copy or post-print version (that is post-review and any corrections, but prior to publisher formatting) needs to be available on the UHI Research Repository (deposited through PURE). If you have paid for 'Gold' access then some publishers allow the publisher version to be added to our repository, but not all. Check your publishing agreement.
  • you need to provide a clear link to the publisher version (usually by adding the DOI reference to the PURE record).
  • the output must be publicly available within 3 months of the publisher accepting of the article.

There will occasionally be deviations from this basic premise. For example, sometimes there might be an embargo imposed on deposit of your AAM or the article itself by the publisher and this must always be adhered to. HEFCE understand this and allow for some outputs to have an embargo but once the embargo ends the output must then be available as above.

The policy does not apply to monographs, book chapters, other long-form publications, working papers, creative or practice-based research outputs, or data. Pre-prints and proofs are not acceptable versions for REF purposes and most publishers will not allow your to post the final published version.

Actions to take

On acceptance, create a PURE record for your research output:

  • Log into PURE
  • Click on the green ‘Add new’ button and select the correct output type
  • Add as much information as possible; the fields marked with an asterisk are mandatory
  • Make sure you include the DOI
  • Upload your Author Accepted Manuscript (version post review and all corrections) as a pdf at the button ‘Add document/file, DOI or weblink…’
  • Ensure the status at the bottom of the window is ‘For Validation’ and ‘SAVE’ the record

Download a summary of the key Open Access paragraphs; REF2021 Open Access policy-Final

Download the UHI guide to Adding outputs and REF compliance (pdf)

UHI Libraries APC and open access publishing guidance

Article versions

The pre-print version, being the accepted version but possibly subject to additional editing, is not acceptable in REF regulations. Not all publishers allow the postprint version to be uploaded to a repository without some form of payment so don't assume you are allowed to upload the postprint version, always abide by your publishing agreement and choose your journal carefully if you think an output should be included in the REF.

Ensure you upload a copy of the article that is as close as possible to the published version, without actually being the publishers version – important as the publisher will not normally allow their final version to be freely available anywhere other than on their journal site. This is usually called the Author Accepted Manuscript, or AAM. Always include the license attribution as agreed with your publishers - see under Creative Commons licenses for a summary; if you don't others will be able to read your work but no-one will be able to re-use/cite your work.

Further reading, giving more detail on UK government policy, can be read at the HEFCE website - criteria regarding REF and Open Access.

What is the date of acceptance, as it relates to REF regulations?

The date of acceptance is the point at which the author is notified that the article will be published in the chosen journal post review and any corrections:

  • The 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).

This is also the point at which the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) should be uploaded to PURE.

If you are not the corresponding author for an article then you must ensure you are aware of the timescales expected of the article and follow up if you hear nothing by the time you would expect to. As a non-corresponding author timing is even more tight as the rules for REF giving you three months to upload from publisher acceptance without taking into account if you are a corresponding author, or not.

Do I only need to deposit publications in a repository from 2016 to be eligible for the REF?

All publications, even those published before 2016, should aim to meet the REF requirements as these may affect the final result of the REF and the QR funding allocation which results from this. However, any articles published from 01 April 2016 must be deposited in a repository within 3 months of acceptance to be eligible for submission to REF2021. Although articles published before 1 April 2016 do not need to meet that requirement making an attempt to ensure outputs with a publishing date prior to April 2016 have an AAM attached will mean your research is more openly available and this is considered desirable, but not a requirement.

What if the most appropriate journal for the research does not meet the Open Access requirements for the REF?

Wherever possible, authors should aim to publish in a journal which does meet HEFCE requirements. But it is recognised that, initially at least, there may be cases where the most, or only appropriate journal does not offer such an option. This may then fall under one of the exceptions HEFCE have listed as part of their policy (Paragraphs 35-37) - but this is not guaranteed.

Checking a journal is Open Access and REF compliant

A new web service run jointly by SHERPA, JISC and HEFCE to create a resource to help authors and universities decide whether a journal allows them to comply with OA policy and on the options available to do so, it:

  • Allows universities and authors to quickly and accurately check if a journal of choice is compliant with the REF open access (OA) policy
  • Provides advice to authors on how to comply and informs them of relevant embargoes or other issues arising from publisher and journal policies
  • Use of these services significantly reduces duplication of effort at an institutional level and offers efficiency gains for the sector as a whole
  • Provides quality assured data

Check your chosen journal at the Sherpa REF Website.

As a guide, HEFCE announced that 96% of the articles submitted as part of REF2014 'could' have met the open access requirements - if authors had deposited in a repository.

If I have paid an APC to make an article open access from the journal website, is this enough for the output to be eligible for submission to the REF?

No - an author must still deposit a pdf of the article in an open access repository (meaning PURE for us) within 3 months of acceptance. However, this could be a route to allow the published version of the article (as opposed to the author accepted manuscript) to be made available, substituting the manuscript in the repository at the date of publication. Check with your publisher which version they will allow to be deposited.

Do I need to do anything for other formats of publication I plan to submit to REF2021?

The requirements for REF only apply to journal articles and conference papers. However, according to HEFCE extra credit may be available under the "Research Environment" component of the REF for each unit of assessment for steps taken to make all outputs published across the REF period open access, and the funding resulting from the final REF results.

Does this policy apply to articles published in professional journals, or journals which do not require peer review?

Whilst the majority of publications submitted to the REF are likely to be articles published in peer-reviewed journals, in some disciplines there will be instances where this is not the case.

HEFCE's "Policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework" [Para 19, Footnote 5] does clarify that:

Outputs that are published by a journal or conference that does not require peer review are within the scope of this policy; in this instance, we would require the author’s final accepted version.

The publisher of the journal has a strict confidentiality clause in its publication agreement. If I deposit in the Research Database within 3 months of acceptance, but before publication, won't this breach that agreement?

Some publishers, such as Nature Publishing Group, require authors to embargo any publicity of an accepted article until it has been published:

"... the content of the paper must not be advertised to the media by virtue of being on the website or preprint server"

It may occur that an author is expected, under HEFCE policy, to deposit the article in a repository prior to the publication of the article. In usual circumstances, this would mean that even though the full text might be embargoed, a 'metadata only' record (including the title, journal details, authors and abstract) are available on the public facing pages of a repository.

The Research Database allows records which have been deposited to be completely hidden from public view, for example until the article has been published.

HEFCE have indicated that deposit is required within 3 months of acceptance, but that access and visibility can be delayed until publication or following any publisher imposed embargo.

This is also covered by FAQ no. 8 on the HEFCE FAQ pages.

Authors are therefore advised to:

  • deposit their manuscript within 3 months of acceptance
  • set the embargo period when uploading the output to PURE indicating that this record should not be released until publication (add a bibliographic note too if you wish to give more detail)

Need more help deciding what to do with a particular output?

There are two further web pages describing Open Access Publishing and APC process, please read those first.  If you still need help please visit UHI libraries LibGuide to open access for further information, where you can also find details of how to access the UHI compliance officer to ask a question about OA or about payment of an APC.

UHI Libraries APC and open access publishing guidance