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Meeting REF Requirements


The policy in brief

The REF 2021 publication period closed on 31 December 2020 but researchers should continue to comply with the requirements of the REF 2021 OA policy

To ensure eligibility for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) all journal articles and conference contributions with an ISSN, accepted for publication from 1 April 2016 must be:

  • Deposited in the Research Information System (RIS) (or appropriate subject repository) within 3 months of acceptance.  
  • Made open access within the stated maximum embargo period (12 months for REF panels A and B, 24 months for REF panels C and D).

The Author's Accepted Manuscript (AAM) must be deposited unless the item is gold open access, or the journal allows deposit of the Version of Record.


How to comply

Before you submit your article

Check the OA policy of the journal or conference proceeding you are intending to publish in for compliance with the REF requirements.

When you have had your article accepted

Deposit the AAM in RIS as soon as possible (within 3 months of acceptance).

You can do this by two methods:

  1. Use the  Mediated Deposit Service
  2. Deposit the item yourself in RIS using the RIS Outputs and Research Repository User Guide.

When your article has been published

Contact University of Nottingham Libraries at to update the RIS record with publication details. 

We recommend that authors regularly review any 'In Progress' publications in RIS to clear outstanding actions and complete deposit of outputs for University of Nottingham Libraries to review and make discoverable. This is especially important in light of the REF requirement to complete the process of deposit within 3 months of acceptance.
If your journal or conference proceeding does not meet the REF requirements, then please check the information below on REF exceptions.

Are you covered by a REF exception?

The REF open access policy, which forms part of the Guidance on Submissions (REF 2019/01), identifies certain scenarios where it may be appropriate to claim an exemption from these requirements. Even if REF open access requirements have not been met, an output associated with a valid exception will be eligible for REF submission. 

The following is a list of scenarios where it may be appropriate to claim an exception. The list is arranged by section number in the Guidance on Submissions document.

Please note that certain exceptions will only be valid if an output has met all remaining policy requirements. For further information please refer to the table below.

Categories of permitted exceptions:

Deposit exceptions
Policy ref.Deposit exception
 s. 252(a) At the point of acceptance, it was not possible to secure the use of a repository.
 s. 252(b) There was a delay in securing the final peer-reviewed text (for instance, where a paper has multiple authors).
 s. 252(c) The staff member to whom the output is attributed was not employed on a Category A eligible contract by a UK HEI (defined in paragraphs 52 to 63) at the time of submission for publication.
 s. 252(d) It would be unlawful to deposit, or request the deposit of, the output.
 s. 252(e) Depositing the output would present a security risk.


Access exceptions
Policy ref.Access exception 
 s. 253(a)

The output depends on the reproduction of third-party content for which open access rights could not be granted (either within the specified timescales, or at all).*

 s. 253(b) The publication concerned requires an embargo period that exceeds the stated maxima, and was the most appropriate publication for the output.*
 s. 253(c) The publication concerned actively disallows open-access deposit in a repository, and was the most appropriate publication for the output.*

In these instances, please note that the output will still need to meet deposit and discovery requirements. For further details, please refer to the open access policy in the REF 2021 Guidance on Submissions, sections 223-255 (pages 54-9).

Technical exceptions
Policy ref.Technical exception
 s. 254(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 with the criteria.
 s. 254(b) The repository experienced a short-term or transient technical failure that prevented compliance with the criteria (this should not apply to systemic issues).
s. 254(c) An external service provider failure prevented compliance (for instance, a subject repository did not enable open access at the end of the embargo period, or a subject repository ceased to operate).


Further exceptions
Policy ref.Further exception
 s. 255(a) ‘Other exception’ should be used where an output is unable to meet the criteria due to circumstances beyond the control of the HEI, including extenuating personal circumstances of the author (such as periods of extended leave), industrial action, closure days, and software problems beyond those listed in the technical exceptions. If ‘other’ exception is selected, the output will not need to meet the open access criteria (deposit, discovery or access requirements).
s. 255(b) The output was not deposited within three months of acceptance date, but was deposited within three months of the earliest date of publication. In this instance, the output will need to meet all other policy requirements. This exception does not need to be applied retrospectively to outputs compliant with the policy from 1 April 2016 to 1 April 2018 which fulfilled the policy requirements within three months of publication. **

 ** Where appropriate, Libraries will automatically apply this exception to outputs.

Process for recording an exception:

If a Nottingham researcher identifies that an exception might be appropriate for their output, they should approach their REF Co-ordinator at an early stage, unless the exception relates to venue of publication (see form below for details). The REF Co-ordinator is responsible for reviewing the evidence supporting the proposed exception, and then making a decision either to uphold or reject.

If the exception is upheld, the researcher must complete a copy of the University's REF 2021 Open Access Exception Reporting Form (Microsoft Forms). For most categories of exception, the researcher must confirm in the form that the REF Co-ordinator (or, in their absence, the researcher's Head of School/Department) has agreed to the exception.

In order to meet REF audit requirements, the form requires a descriptive explanation of why it is deemed appropriate to associate a particular exception with the output concerned. 

If a copy of the output has already been deposited in RIS, the researcher will be asked to include the RIS Output ID number in the form. If deposit has not yet happened, the researcher should request this via the Libraries' Mediated Deposit Service.

Requesting an exception is not an indication that an output will form part of the University's REF submission. 


Scan of insect

Open access policies

Files in wooden pigeonholes

Mediated deposit service

Journal on wooden table

Checking your journal's policy



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