Guidance on submissions (2019/01) – REF 2021

“106. The four UK HE funding bodies believe that the outputs of publicly funded research should be freely accessible and widely available. Open access research brings benefits to researchers, students, institutions, governments, public bodies, professionals and practitioners, citizen scientists and many others. Open access has the potential to make research more efficient and impactful. In view of these benefits, and to embed open access as an intrinsic part of the research process, the funding bodies have introduced a policy requirement on open access in REF 2021.

107. The intent of the REF open access policy is to provide a set of minimum requirements for open access, while encouraging an environment where researchers and HEIs move beyond the minimum requirements. HEIs can demonstrate where they have gone beyond the requirements in the environment template (REF5b) in the research and impact strategy section (see the ‘Panel criteria’, paragraph 346). The funding bodies encourage institutions to take a proportionate view of the costs and benefits of making other types of outputs (including monographs) available as open access.

108. The open access policy applies to journal articles and conference contributions (with an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)) which are accepted for publication from 1 April 2016 and published on or before 31 December 2020. It requires these research outputs to be made open access for those outputs to be eligible for submission in REF 2021. The outputs should be deposited, discoverable, and free to read, download and search within, by anyone with an internet connection. The funding bodies recommend that institutions fully consider the extent to which authors currently retain or transfer the copyright of works published by their researchers, as part of creating a healthy research environment.

109. Authors and institutions can meet the policy requirement without necessarily incurring any additional open access publication costs (such a through payment of an article processing charge).

110. Evidence gathered in 2017 indicates good progress is being made by the sector in implementing the policy, and a range of systems and tools are being developed to assist authors and institutions in making their outputs open. However, the funding bodies recognise that the current structures and software solutions are still at an early stage, and that it will take time to fully establish open access as an intrinsic part of the research process. The funding bodies expect the sector and service providers to continue the momentum to develop new tools to implement the policy, particularly relating to the deposit requirements. In view of this, there are measures and exceptions which have been developed to provide a degree of tolerance of non-compliance.

111. The funding bodies recognise that information on deposit permissions, licences and embargoes can sometimes be unclear, complex, or hard to find. Until significant progress has been made to address this issue (including developing machine-readable licences and permissions), it is reasonable for the sector to rely on shared services, including those offered by SHERPA (Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access). Authors and institutions should feel comfortable acting on the information provided by SHERPA in meeting REF 2021 open access requirements, and should not undertake additional work to verify this information.

112. Institutions are not expected to correspond with previous institutions to evidence that outputs published while a staff member was previously employed elsewhere fulfilled the requirements of the policy. This is the case even if the new employer intends to submit the output to REF 2021. For example, when a researcher moves from the institution where the output was published (X), to another institution (Y), the REF does not expect that institution Y corresponds with institution X to seek and retain evidence of the output’s compliance. Where an institution is unable to ascertain themselves if an output is compliant with the policy, a policy exception can be applied (see paragraph 255.a).

113. The intent of this policy is for the output to be made freely available. The policy encourages outputs which are submitted with a deposit, technical, or other exception to be made open access as soon as possible. However, this is not a requirement of the policy.

114. The REF 2021 audit process will seek assurance that the information and data submitted regarding compliance are accurate and reliable….”