What you need to know about the Research Excellence Framework (REF) open access policy

Working at a laptop ©Minerva Studio via iStock All rights reserved

By Mafalda Picarra (@MPicarra)

1 April 2016 marked the start of another chapter on the UK’s road to open access (OA). This is the date when the UK education funding councils’ post-2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) OA policy came into effect.

It’s been a long time coming. The REF OA policy was announced in 2014, and subsequently revised in 2015, following further extensive consultation with UK higher education organisations, representative bodies, learned societies, publishers, research funders, and with Jisc.

This policy is important for all UK organisations as they are required to comply with the education funding councils’ REF assessment criteria, with OA now an inclusive part of the post 2014 REFevaluation. In doing so, the policy should support research outputs to become accessible both by academic and non-academic audiences, so that everyone can reap the economic and social benefits resultant from scientific research.

Understanding the key requirements

The REF OA policy applies to journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN number accepted for publication. The key policy elements include:

  • Self-archiving: depositing and making research outputs OA
  • Where to deposit: institutional, multi-institutional or subject repository
  • Deposit date: as soon as possible after the point of acceptance and no later than three months after the publication date (from 1 April 2017, research findings will have to be deposited on acceptance)
  • Version of article: the output must be deposited as the author’s accepted and final peer-reviewed text, accepted author manuscript, final author version, or a post-print version
  • Embargo period: 12 months for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and 24 months for humanities, arts and social sciences
  • Licence: no request for a specific licence to be used but it is advised that a licence that allows research outputs to be read, searched and downloaded is used (eg CC BY-NC-ND)

Supporting institutions to comply

Since the REF OA policy was announced, we have been working closely with the UK education funding councils, the academic community and publishers to develop services that will help institutions to comply with the REF OA policy. This will be achieved by allowing them to implement processes, procedures and systems to monitor policy compliance and report on progress, as well as maximise the visibility of the research outputs. These include:

  • RIOXX — this metadata application profile ensures that the right metadata is recorded by institutional repositories, that consistent tracking of OA publications is maintained and that, ultimately, systematic information can be collected to report on policy compliance
  • RIOXX plugins for EPrints and DSpace — these plugins add a series of functionalities both to EPrints and DSpace repositories which will help compliance with the UK education funding councils REF and the Research Councils UK (RCUK) OA policies
  • Monitor Local (alpha service) — enables organisations to record and report on data relating to the publication of OA outputs by their academics, including both ‘gold’ and ‘green’ publication routes
  • Sherpa REF (beta service) — helps authors and organisations to decide whether a journal allows them to comply with the post-2014 REF policy, and what to do both when it does and when it doesn’t
  • Publications Router (beta service) — helps institutions to populate their repositories and current research information systems (CRISs) with research papers written by their academics
  • REF Compliance Checker for EPrints — helps institutions with EPrints repositories to identify in a quick and systematic way if an OA publication deposited by a staff member is eligible for the post-2014 REF
  • REF Compliance Checker for DSpace (in development) — this plugin will help institutions with DSpace repositories to identify if an OA publication meets the criteria set out in the post-2014 REF OA policy and will facilitate policy compliance

Of course, the REF OA policy is just one of a number of funder policies that organisations may be subject to. One of the challenges, therefore, is in having to meet and demonstrate compliance with the range of different requirements. For example our SHERPA Juliet service lists policies for more than a hundred and fifty funders from 22 countries.

Find out more

For information and advice on the REF OA policy, read our guide on complying with funders policies and our blog post on helping with REF OA compliance.

We also have a range of forthcoming events. Sign up to our mailing list to find out more.

If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help support you comply contact our team at oasupport@jisc.ac.uk.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Jisc’s story.