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Open Access: Open Access and the REF


Open Access and the REF

Research England recognise that Open Access can make research more impactful and efficient, and can benefit many people. They have therefore introduced an Open Access policy for REF2021. The policy states that to be eligible for submission to REF 2021, authors' outputs must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository within three months of acceptance for publication. Deposited material should be discoverable, and free to read and download, for anyone with an internet connection. However, the policy allows repositories to respect embargo periods set by publishers.


Which outputs does the policy apply to?

The policy applies only to journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN that have been accepted for publication after the 1st April 2016.  

It does not apply to monographs, book chapters, other long-form publications, working papers, creative or practice-based research outputs, or data.


How do I comply?

To comply with the policy, you must deposit the author accepted manuscript of your journal articles and conference proceedings in Liverpool Elements within three months of acceptance. If you are new to Liverpool Elements and would like help getting started please contact


What if I am unable to comply with the policy?

The policy acknowledges that there will be circumstances in which researchers may be unable to comply and therefore a number of exceptions to the various requirements will be allowed:

Deposit exceptions

a. At the point of acceptance, it was not possible to secure the use of a repository.

b. There was a delay in securing the final peer-reviewed text (for instance, where a paper has multiple authors)

c. The staff member to whom the output is attributed was not employed on an eligible contract by a UK HEI at the time of submission for publication.

d. It would be unlawful to deposit, or request the deposit of, the output.

e. Depositing the output would present a security risk.

Access exceptions

a. The output depends on the reproduction of third-party content for which open access rights could not be granted.

b. The publication concerned requires an embargo period that exceeds the stated maxima, and was the most appropriate publication for the output.

c. The publication concerned actively disallows open-access deposit in a repository, and was the most appropriate publication for the output.

Technical exceptions

a. At the point of acceptance, the staff member to whom the output is attributed was employed at a different UK HEI, and it has not been possible to determine compliance.

b. The repository experienced a short term or transient technical failure that prevented compliance with the criteria.

c. An external provider failure prevented compliance.

Further exceptions

a. "Other exception" should be used where an output is unable to meet the criteria due to circumstances beyond the control of the HEI, such as extenuating personal circumstances of the author.

b. The output was not deposited within three months of acceptance, but was deposited within three months of the earliest date of publication.

Library staff can apply these exceptions in Liverpool Elements. If you believe one of these exceptions applies to a research output please contact


I've heard the policy will change in the future to include books - is this correct?

There is an expectation that the post-2021 REF will require submitted monographs to be available on an Open Access basis. However, Research England recognise that achieving this will be more difficult than with journal articles therefore consultations will take place to ensure a range of appropriate measures and exceptions are put in place.