REF open access policy

Details of the REF2021 open access policy, including scope, deposit requirements, terminology and policy FAQs.

The information on the open access policy for REF2021 is taken from the document Guidance on submissions (REF 2019/01) (GoS) published by the REF team in January 2018, and the FAQs available from Research England. Guidance documents were finalised following consultation and published as Key doucments by the REF team in January 2019. References on these pages have been updated to refer to the final guidance rather than the Draft guidance on submissions (2018/01). In time, the REF team will produce a separate guidance document on the REF open access policy (Catriona Firth Wonk HE blog post 31 Jan 2019).

Draft guidance on submissions (2018/01) from the REF2021 website

Research England FAQs on open access research

Key documents from the REF2021 website

Guidance on submissions (REF 2019/01) from the REF2021 website

The REF guidance isn’t trying to catch you out - Catriona Firth on Wonk HE 31 Jan 2019


The four UK HE funding bodies which promote the REF have made open access part of the policy. The decision was made in response to the belief that publicly funded research should be freely accessible and widely available. The funding bodies argue for the benefits of open acces, such as making research more efficient and impactful, and aim to make open access central to the research process (GoS 106).

Guidance on submissions (REF 2019/01) from the REF2021 website


The open access policy applies to all journal articles and conference proceedings which are published with an ISSN, which were accepted for publication after 01 April 2016 and will be published before 31 December 2020 (GoS 108). Outputs produced earlier in the assessment period (01 January 2014 - 31 March 2016) are eligible for submission to REF2021 without meeting the open access policy requirements. 

Guidance on submissions (REF 2019/01) from the REF2021 website


The open access criteria consists of three elements: deposit, discovery and access (GoS 234). You will meet all criteria by creating a Pure record and uploading the accepted manuscript within 3 months of the date of acceptance. This requirement is also in line with the School's publication policy. 

School of Informatics publication policy

  In Informatics Reference

Create a record for your paper in Pure and upload the author's accepted manuscript within 3 months of the date of acceptance.

As the author, you may create the record yourself or with the help of the RDM team in one of the following ways:

Use the provided guides for creating Pure entries.


Forward the acceptance email and the accepted manuscript to the RDM team on Contact the RDM team
Complete the local publications form. Informatics publications submission form
GoS 234-240
Discovery Fulfilled by deposit to Pure. GoS 241-242
Access Fulfilled by deposit to Pure. GoS 243-245


There are exceptions to the above criteria. These are in place to allow near 100% compliance with the REF open access policy, and the number of exceptions applied is not capped nor does it affect REF outcomes (GoS 233).

Exceptions can only be applied to outputs as set out in the REF documentation (GoS 252-255) and will only be applied by the RDM team if the exception criteria are met. Circumstances outwith the established exceptions cannot motivate exception to the policy, and Research England have indicated that they do not wish to see extensive use of the broader exceptions (e.g. 'delay in securing the final peer-reviewed text', GoS 252b).

If you have any questions regarding exceptions, please contact the RDM team on

Guidance on submissions (REF 2019/01) from the REF2021 website

Research England FAQs including exceptions to REF open access policy