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Open Access: REF OA Policy

HEFCE Policy

HEFCE issued their open access policy in March 2014, which lays out requirements for making all post-REF 2014 submissions open access either via the Green or Gold route. Retrospective open access will not be acceptable.  The aim of the policy is to facilitate access and re-use.  As with the RCUK policy, the focus is on journal articles and conference proceedings. The policy formally comes into force on 1st April 2016, however the University of Hull introduced an institutional policy to help researchers comply with HEFCE in April 2015.
All articles must be deposited in an institutional repository within three months of the date of acceptance by the journal
–Author responsibility to fulfill requirements by depositing research output
–Institutional responsibility to provide mechanisms to enable authors in complying

The Key Points

  1. All journal articles and conference papers published in a journal submitted to the next REF exercise will have to be published on open access if accepted for publication from April 2016.  This cannot be retrospective.
  2. Articles published prior to the policy do not need to be open access, but institutions demonstrating engagement with open access throughout the REF period beyond the policy will gain benefit in the environment score.
  3. Open access can be achieved through Gold open access or Green open access.  The article must be placed in a local repository anyway regardless of the route chosen.
  4. Articles must be deposited in the repository within 3 months of the date of acceptance for publication.
  5. HEFCE has agreed a list of exceptions to the policy, where individual circumstances prevent full compliance, but use of these is expected to be rare.

OA Flowchart

HEFCE Policy

The full HEFCE policy can be found on their website alongside supporting documentation.

OA, HEFCE and the REF Presentation

HEFCE policy and licensing

The HEFCE policy does not lay out any specific requirements for licensing.  However, it does expect that articles are “…presented in a form that allows anyone with internet access to search electronically within the text, read it and download it without charge.”


It is advised that the Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) license would meet this requirement.  This is the most restrictive Creative Commons license.  As such, use of any Creative Commons license can be used: in particular, other funder requirements for more open licensing (e.g., RCUK) will also meet HEFCE requirements.

CC License