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Open access and the REF

REF 2021 has now been completed and we are currently awaiting details of the next REF exercise.

During this post-2021 REF period we are advising authors submitting journal or conference papers after the 1st January 2021 to follow the REF 2021 policy guidance.
We will update this information as soon as details of the new REF policy are released.
Current research funder open access policies for the UKRI, Wellcome, CRUK, British Heart Foundation etc. Are available on our Funder Policy pages.

What are researchers asked to do Post REF 2021?

For all eligible publications submitted after the 1st January 2021 researchers must:

  • Create a bibliographic (metadata) record in Elements for every journal article or conference paper (in proceedings with an ISSN), immediately on acceptance for publication, and no later than 3 months thereafter.
  • Deposit the accepted version of the manuscript into the institutional repository Queen Mary Research Online (QMRO), or a subject repository of the author’s choosing, within 3 months of acceptance for publication.
  • Queen Mary requires that researchers, and administrators supporting them, deposit accepted manuscripts for all journal articles and conference papers (regardless of whether they will be published open access or not).

Please note:

Manuscripts are deposited in QMRO by uploading the file in Elements, files cannot be directly uploaded into QMRO.

If you submitted supplementary materials (tables, figures etc.) with an output, these files should also be deposited in to the repository.


If you are unsure if your research has to comply with the post-2021 REF Open Access policy please contact Open Research Services for advice.

At present the REF open access policy does not apply to:

  • Monographs
  • Book chapters, other long-form publications
  • Working papers
  • Creative or practice-based research outputs
  • Data

Understanding versions of your paper

We talk a lot about ‘versions’ and which ones can be deposited to repositories.  Below is a brief outline of the different versions, what publishers may allow you to do with them, and how they relate to open access.

Several factors can dictate which version of your paper can be deposited in a repository, or share publicly from your academic profile webpage:

  • Retaining rights if you signed a Copyright Transfer/Licence to Publish agreement with your publisher.
  • Whether your research is funded by a funding body that requires you to retain rights over a specific version of your publication.

Know your versions, and keep them safe

Submitted version

The submitted version is also known as the Author’s Pre-print or the original draft version. This is the version that was first submitted to the publisher for consideration and before it has undergone peer review. The content of this version of the paper may go through changes as a result of feedback from peer review, but is acceptable as a self-archived manuscript if the accepted manuscript cannot be deposited to a repository.

Accepted Author Manuscript (AAM)

The accepted manuscript is sometimes known as the Post-print, Accepted Author Version, or Personal Copy. This is the version accepted for publication after it has undergone peer review, but before any copyediting or formatting has been applied by the publisher. Publisher’s formatting changes can include: adding publisher logos, extra columns, headings and footers, typesetting and font changes.  The document will often be in an editable format, such as Word.

Make sure you keep the accepted version of your paper; it’s the one that most publishers allow you to deposit in institutional and other repositories, and incorporates textual changes as a result of peer review.

Uncorrected Proofs

The uncorrected proof version of a paper has been through peer review, had changes as a result of peer review applied, and been re-submitted to the publisher to undergo copy and format changes in readiness for publication.  Whilst changes to the text and content of the paper can still occur at this stage, this version of the paper is not considered an accepted manuscript, and generally falls under the copyright of the publisher.  It is not usually acceptable for self-archiving purposes as a result.

Published version

The published version is also known as the Version of Record (VoR). This is the version that has been published in a journal in print and/or online. The article will include any copy editing and formatting changes made by the publisher, and is usually available online on their website in PDF or HTML form.

Due to publisher’s copyright transfer restrictions, the publisher will often restrict authors from depositing this version to a repository.

Still not sure which version to deposit?

If you are unsure of which version to upload, contact Open Research Services who can help you identify the best version to deposit. We will check whether the journal/publisher you published with permits you to self-archive work in open access repositories, and which version of the paper can be deposited.

You can also check the publisher’s self-archiving policies in the SHERPA/RoMEO database, which holds an extensive list of journal and publisher policies for self-archiving work. Check specifically for restrictions such as embargo periods, and which version authors are permitted to archive.

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