For REF 2021, the higher education funder bodies have introduced a new Open Access (OA) policy, mandating the deposit of journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN into an institutional, or subject repository within three months of acceptance.  Read the REF2021 open access policy.

By complying with the University’s Open Access Policy, you will be fully compliant for REF2021.

If the answer isn’t below, see the full-list of FAQs from Research England or contact [email protected].

On acceptance, deposit a copy of the accepted author manuscript version of your paper in the Virtual Research Environment (VRE). Add as much detail as possible, including the date of acceptance. This must be done as soon as possible after the date of acceptance, and no later than three months from this date.

You will not be able to submit your publication for assessment to the next REF if you do not respond to the open access requirements and none of the policy exceptions apply.

No. The next REF will operate in the same way as REF2014 in accepting the full range of research output types for assessment.

No. The open access policy only covers outputs accepted from 1 April 2016 onwards. Outputs accepted prior to that date are not expected to meet the open access requirements, but these outputs will still be eligible for submission to the REF (as long as they fulfil any other REF eligibility criteria).

In most cases, the version to deposit is the final, accepted author manuscript. This is the version that includes changes made following peer-review, but before typesetting by the publisher. It is often a Word document. You cannot normally include the published PDF, unless the article is made available by the publisher under gold open access.

No. If the paper has been formatted by the publisher in any way, it will not be the version we are allowed to include. Other versions we cannot include: online first version, un-refereed pre-print, anything with the publishers watermark across it or the version of record.

The policy asks that access is provided to the version of the article that contains all academically necessary changes arising from peer review and the academic editorial process. Accepted manuscripts do not typically contain the subsequent non-academic alterations arising from copyediting and typesetting, nor do they typically show the journal page numbers and other publication livery present in the published version of record, but for many people wishing to access research findings they do represent an academically sound version of the output.

Authors not comfortable with providing access to their accepted manuscripts are advised to ensure that the manuscript is updated to reflect any changes that are perceived to be essential, or to ask their publisher for permission to deposit the published version of record.

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)
  • this is the point at which 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 eg conditional on major or minor revisions being made).

Publishers often impose a delay on making manuscripts available through open access repositories. The REF policy makes allowances for journal embargoes. The maximum permitted periods are 12 months (Panels A and B) and 24 months (Panels C and D). Specific journal embargo periods can be checked on Sherpa ROMEO. UK authors who intend to submit publications for REF should consider policy compliance when considering where to publish.

Before making any paper openly available, the University’s repository team will check and apply any necessary embargo. Do not wait until the end of the embargo period before adding it to the VRE. Do it as soon as possible, and within 3 months of acceptance.

If you have a query regarding embargoes, please contact the repository team. [email protected].

Repository staff will complete any missing fields, check the version that has been included, apply any necessary embargo, and push the record through to WestminsterResearchGo to WestminsterResearch site, the University’s openly available institutional repository. At this point your publication will become compliant.

No. In the case where a publication is made openly available by the publisher through gold open access immediately upon publication, then the open access policy does not apply. Do still create a record in the VRE, attaching a copy of the published version to ensure all of your outputs are included.

The policy states that 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. They know that some institutions are concerned that this exception is open to abuse by authors. They 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.

Yes. It is the University policy that all journal articles and conference papers should be made openly available, irrespective of potential REF submission. If you decide at a later stage that you do wish to include a paper in the REF but haven’t added it to the VRE, you will not be able to make it retrospectively compliant.

Even if your paper has been published to another institutional repository, or a subject repository, such as Europe PubMed Central, you still need to upload a copy to the VRE within three months of acceptance. We need to ensure we gather all necessary data relating to the publication at the point of deposit. Other repositories may not collect sufficient information in order for us to comply.

No, the panels will assess published versions of record, not accepted manuscripts.

Yes. As long as you added your manuscript to the VRE within 3 months of acceptance you will still be able to submit it. It will be classed as being under ‘closed deposit’ due to embargo.

In certain circumstances, a paper can be submitted to the REF even though it does not comply with the Open Access Policy. Please contact the repository team at [email protected] with the subject line 'REF2021 exception needed' as soon as you become aware that your paper may not comply. This will include instances where security or IP reasons preclude deposit in a repository.