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Open access and rights retention

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Research England (previously HEFCE) undertakes a quality assessment of research conducted at UK universities about every six years. This informs a league table of research excellence for institutions and individual Units of Assessment (similar to disciplines) as well as the allocation of public research funding to institutions. For the most recent exercise, REF2021, there was an open access requirement. For the next REF, potentially in 2028, submitted papers in journals and conference prceedings with an ISSN need to meet the same open access requirements as for REF2021.

Open Access requirements

In order to be eligible for the REF, articles and papers in journals and conference proceedings with an ISSN number must be made available via an institutional or subject repository.

This means that the author accepted manuscript:

  • must be deposited in an institutional or subject repository, where they are discoverable and free to read and download by anyone with an internet connection.
  • must be deposited no later than three months after the point of acceptance for publication.

Currently the open access requirements do not apply to monographs, book chapters, other long-form publications, working papers, creative or practice-based research outputs, or data.

If you follow the SHU checklist to make your scholarly articles open access, you will meet the REF open access requirements.


If you have questions or need help with meeting the open access requirements for REF, please contact the Library Research Support Team:

For advice and guidance on other aspects of the REF contact