Skip to main content
Library Services

Open access and the REF

The REF was first carried out in 2014, replacing the previous Research Assessment Exercise. The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE). Post-2014 saw the announcement of the Research Excellence Framework policy on open access, and published revisions to this policy in July 2015 and November 2016. The policy applies to journal articles or conference papers published in proceedings with an ISSN. Find out more about the policy on submission for the 2021 REF.

What are researchers asked to do?

In order to ensure all researchers are eligible for the 2021 REF, Queen Mary introduced the following requirements from 1st September 2015.

A downloadable version of the requirements can be found here:

Meeting the Post-2014 REF Open Access policy [PDF 448KB]

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.

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.

Getting it right for REF...why are you required to do this?

Research England introduced the following requirements as part of the policy on open access in the next REF:

  • Any journal article or conference paper with an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) that you want included in the REF is subject to its open access policy.
  • The accepted manuscript must be deposited in a repository.
  • The accepted version of the manuscript must be deposited within 3 months of publication between 1st April 2016 - 31st March 2018; and within 3 months of acceptance for publication from 1st April 2018 onwards.
  • If you have published your work in an open access or hybrid journal under a CC BY license, then you only need to deposit the metadata in a repository with a link to the published version.


If you are unsure if your research has to comply with the post-2014 REF Open Access policy please contact Open Research Services for advice.

As a quick checklist, 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.

Further information

We will be running a series of briefings and workshops over the coming months; to book onto a workshop or to find out about the next briefing session or drop-in, email Open Research Services.

Back to top