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Wednesday 17 January
My.Anglia > Rido > Research > Ref > REF and Open Access

REF and Open Access

In March 2014, following a period of consultation, HEFCE announced a Policy for Open Access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework.

Their requirements apply only to journal articles and conference contributions (when published in proceedings carrying an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)), which are accepted for publication on or after 1 April 2016.

In order to be eligible for submission for the next REF, the author accepted (aka post print) version must be deposited in an institutional repository (such as ARRO) or other eligible repository as soon as possible after acceptance and within three months of this date. Where the published version is available within this period, and the publisher permits such use, the published version may be deposited in place of the author accepted version; and the published version may subsequently be used to augment the repository in any case.

The metadata describing the output must be immediately discoverable once uploaded to the repository. However, the output itself can be held under embargo in line with publishers' requirements, so long as the embargo does not exceed

  • 12 months for researchers working in most STEM subjects, under REF Main Panels A and B
  • 24 months for researchers working in social sciences, and the arts and humanities, under REF Main Panels C and D.

Once the output itself becomes discoverable, it must remain so.

The output must be presented in such a way that allows anyone with internet access to search electronically within the text, read it and download it without charge. While the output may be licensed, for example using a Creative Commons licence, its use cannot be restricted more greatly than the conditions imposed by a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commerical Non Derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) licence.

HEFCE have identified a number of exceptions where the output is unable to meet the deposit requirements. These may relate to the individual's employment position or role in a multi-author collaboration; where the deposit could be met but access cannot be arranged for various reasons such as third party copyright; or where there were temporary technical issues. However, these are expected to be infrequent and while HEFCE will be tolerant of occasional failures, institutions are expected to make every effort to ensure that outputs meet the open access requirements in the correct timescale, and to arrange it retrospectively where they do not.

HEFCE also promised additional credit under the 'research environment' section of the post-2014 REF to institutions which demonstrate they have taken steps to enable open access to output types outside the scope of this definition, and to go further enabling the reuse of work, such as by presenting outputs in formats that enable text-mining.

In July 2015, having recognised that meeting the above requirements was more challenging than had been anticipated, HEFCE decided to temporarily relax its position such that outputs accepted for publication between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017 had to meet them between date of acceptance and three months after publication, reverting to the original, more stringent requirements as of 1 April 2017. In common with most other HEIs, however, to keep communications to staff simple we are sticking to the original timescale of the requirements needing to be met within three months of acceptance, in our messages and other publicity.

At this time HEFCE also identified a blanket exception in respect of 'gold' open access publications (i.e. where authors had paid for immediate open access). In such cases HEFCE recognised that because the published version would be deposited and acknowledged that sometimes these would not always be available within three months of acceptance, and so waived the deposit requirements. Nonetheless, HEFCE recommend that such outputs are deposited in an institutional repository as soon as possible after acceptance. Finally, HEFCE's statement also clarified that information on open access policies as collated by shared services such as SHERPA would be regarded as being sufficiently authoritative for institutions to act on in pursuit of meeting the open access requirements for the next REF; institutions were not expected to try to verify such information in addition.

In November 2016, HEFCE announced that the relaxation extending the deadline for deposit to three months post-publication would continue until 31 March 2018; a further review will take place in November 2017.

RIDO and the University Library jointly produced a leaflet about the value of open access and depositing in ARRO, including reference to the REF requirements. Note that this was published prior to the relaxation of HEFCE's policy in July 2015, and therefore refers to the more stringent initial expectations.

Open Access and the Stern Review of the REF

In autumn 2015, Lord Stern was commissioned to undertake a review of the REF; his recommendations were published in July 2016. None of Stern's recommendations directly referenced open access, but will have consequences if they are adopted - in particular the effect of his recommendations around submitting all research-active staff, and that research can be submitted only by the institution where it was done. (For more information, see About the REF.)

Of course, this raises an issue in respect of recently-arrived colleagues who deposit work done elsewhere into ARRO in order to meet REF open access requirements. In the grand scheme of things, the HEFCE rules around open access do not specify which open access repository work must be deposited in to meet their requirements, so deposit in ARRO in line with the REF criteria would be sufficient to enable the previous institution to submit that output, even if they themselves have not complied with the open access requirements. While this does not bring an immediate benefit to Anglia Ruskin, it is likely we will continue to encourage staff to submit work done outside Anglia, to allow a full individual profile to be developed.

The most problematic issue is likely to be around colleagues who choose to leave Anglia Ruskin around the same time as a journal article or conference contribution is accepted for publication. That work - having been done at Anglia Ruskin - is only going to be available for submission by us to the next REF, but if the colleagues concerned do not deposit the work in ARRO (or in an alternative open access repository) then the risk is that either the work would be rendered ineligible, and we will have no control over rectifying the situation. It will therefore be crucial to be aware, as colleagues do choose to leave, that arrangements are made to ensure their work is known about and dealt with accordingly.

Beyond the next REF?

There are already strong indicators that open access requirements for the next REF but one will be more extensive. HEFCE's planned consultation on the next REF, which was to run in autumn 2015 but was postponed (see About the REF), stated HEFCE's intention to extend open access requirements to monographs in the next REF but one. Meanwhile the Minister for Universities, Jo Johnson, called in early 2016 for "almost all" of UK research output to be made available on an open access basis by 2020.

Further information