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Subject LibGuides

Open Access: REF

What's next after REF2021?

update            The four UK funding bodies – Research England, Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland – introduced a policy requirement on open access in Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

As the shape of a future research assessment exercise is yet to be determined, it is not feasible at this stage to define the specifics of a future open access policy. The funding bodies will make a decision about this policy through the Future Research Assessment Programme, based on:

  • consultation with the sector
  • an evaluation of open access in REF 2021.

You should follow the REF 2021 open access policy and guidance until further notice.

Source:  Publishing the Findings of Research England-funded Research, 17 Aug 2021.

REF2021 Open Access Policy

Research England's REF2021 Guidance on Submissions addresses Open Access in paragraphs 105-114 and 223-255.  These are summarised in an Overview published in Nov 2019.
Key Points:
  1. In order to be eligible for submission to REF2021, all journal articles and conference papers published in a journal must be deposited in an insitutional or subject-based repository (such as Worktribe) within 3 months of the date of acceptance for publication.

  2. The author's accepted manuscript, or the published version, must be open access as soon as possible after the date of publication: no later than 12 months  for REF Panels A&B (STEM) , and 24 months for Panels C&D (AHSS).  This obligation came into force for articles accepted 1st April 2016 to date.

  3. Open access can be achieved through Gold or Green routes.  Research England has not expressed any preference for 'gold'; there is no expectation that authors will pay to publish.

  4. The work must be made available with an open licence (such as Creative Commons), downloadable, and machine readable.

  5. Research England has agreed a list of exceptions to the policy, where an author or institution is unable to meet the criteria for deposit or access to articles.  At the University of Hull,  Associate Deans for Research have oversight of the use of exceptions.

  6. Institutions which demonstrate engagement with open access beyond the minimum specifications of the policy may be rewarded through their Research Environment score.


If your research output relates to a funded project, your funder's criteria for open access may be more stringent than the REF.  Check your funder's terms.

University of Hull process for complying with REF Open Access criteria

This is a simplified representation of the process of depositing research output in Worktribe for University of Hull authors.  Not every scenario is captured by this visualisation.  Contact if you have any questions.

Flowchart: 1) Article accepted. 2) Within 3 months, author must create a record in Worktribe, attach the accepted manuscript and deposit the record. 3)

CC License