• Print

Meeting REF Requirements

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 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.

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 University of Nottingham Libraries 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, 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.

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.


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.


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 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. 

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. 

University of Nottingham Libraries

King's Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

Please see our Help and support page for
telephone and email
contact points