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Meeting REF Requirements

Please note that REF 2021 draft guidance on submissions (REF 2018/01) was issued in July 2018. The document sets out the open access policy intent (paragraphs 107-116 on pages 32-34) and provides detailed guidance on the policy, including scope, definitions, requirements and exceptions (paragraphs 213-245 on pages 66-72). The guidance on submissions will be published in its final form in January 2019, following a period of consultation.

The information on this page references previously published REF open access policy documents and FAQs and will be updated after publication of the final guidance. In the interim, please continue to follow the current guidance and processes set out below.



A summary of the REF open access policy, how to ensure you comply and guidance on exceptions (including the University's process for recording these).

On this page:


The policy in brief

To ensure eligibility for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) all journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN, accepted for publication from the 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.

Outputs accepted for publication before the 1 April 2016 are outside the scope of the open access policy for the next REF. 

Read more about this and other Open Access (OA) policies on our  Policy page.

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 the library at to update the RIS record with publication details. 

If your journal or conference proceeding does not meet the REF requirements, then please check the information below on REF exceptions.



The REF open access policy 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 list of scenarios where it may be appropriate to claim an exception is arranged by section number within the REF open access policy.

Categories of permitted exceptions:

Deposit exceptions
Policy ref.Deposit exception
 s. 38(a) The individual whose output is being submitted to the REF was unable to secure the use of a repository at the point of output acceptance
 s. 38(b) The individual whose output is being submitted to the REF experienced a delay in securing the final peer-reviewed text (for instance, where a paper has multiple authors)
 s. 38(c) The individual whose output is being submitted to the REF was not employed by a UK HEI at the time of submission for publication
 s. 38(d) It would be unlawful to deposit, or request the deposit of, the output
 s. 38(e) Depositing the output would present a security risk 
s. 38(f) The output was published as gold open access

A new deposit exception was introduced on 1 April 2018: 'The output was not deposited within three months of acceptance date, but was deposited within three months of the earliest date of publication.'

Access exceptions
Policy ref.Access exception
 s. 39(a) The output depends on the reproduction of third party content for which open access rights could not be granted
 s. 39(b) The publication concerned requires an embargo period that exceeds the stated maxima, and was the most appropriate publication for the output
 s. 39(c) The publication concerned actively disallows open-access deposit in a repository, and was the most appropriate publication for the output 
Technical exceptions
Policy ref.Technical exception
 s. 40(a) At the point of acceptance, the individual whose output is being submitted to the REF was at a different UK HEI which failed to comply with the criteria
 s. 40(b) The repository experienced a short term or transient technical failure that prevented compliance with the criteria 
s. 40(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)
Other exceptions
Policy ref.Other exception
 s. 41 Exceptional cases not covered by the exceptions listed above                                                                                                                                                    

Note that even if the "gold" (fee paid to the publisher) route is chosen in order to achieve open access, an exception (s. 38(f)) must be recorded in RIS for that output.

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 gold open access or 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 and sign a copy of the University's REF 2021 Open Access Exception Reporting Form (note: this form is designed to be opened with Adobe Acrobat Reader as not all web browsers will support the electronic completion of the form). For most categories of exception, the form must also be signed by the REF Co-ordinator (or, in their absence, the researcher's Head of School/Department).

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. The REF Open Access FAQs may assist in drafting the explanation.

If a copy of the output has already been deposited in RIS, a copy of the completed form should be emailed to: If deposit has not yet happened, the researcher should request this via the Libraries'  Mediated Deposit Service and include a copy of the form as a separate attachment.

Upon receipt of the completed form, Libraries staff will associate the exception with the relevant output within RIS. Recording of an exception in this way is not an indication that an output will form part of the University's submission to REF 2021. 

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