Category Archives: REF

REF 2021 Open Access Policy – Update

The Open Access policy for the next REF has been amended.

To be eligible for submission to the next REF, HEFCE now requires that the full-text of journal articles and published, peer-reviewed conference proceedings (with an ISSN) are deposited in an open access repository within 3 months from acceptance. This is a change from the previous timeframe of 3 months from first publication (in place since 1st April 2016).

A new deposit exception to the policy has been created to cater for publications being added to an open access repository in accordance with the old timeframe.  Any publication that misses the new timeframe (3 months from acceptance) but meets the old timeframe (3 months from first publication) will be eligible to claim this exception.  This exception will remain in place for the whole of the REF2021 publication period.

This change is required for all eligible publications accepted for publication on or after 1st April 2018.  The version of the publication required by HEFCE to be deposited in an open access repository is the author’s accepted manuscript.

Further details can be found at


HEFCE Open Access Policy: one year on – how is it working?

It’s been one year since the HEFCE Open Access Policy for the next REF came into force. In a nutshell the policy requires all journal articles and published conference items (with an ISSN) to be deposited in a repository within 3 months of publication (probably acceptance from April 2018) with the Author’s Accepted Manuscript.  So how is it working?

What is working?

How compliant are we? That’s normally the first question… and there are 2 answers. Firstly, of the eligible outputs added to ORO we reckon that compliance is around 84% – this includes items published Gold Open Access.  It doesn’t include outputs that may be compliant in another institutional repository or a subject repository.  However, we estimate only around 60% of OU affiliated research outputs get added to ORO so there is a significant number of outputs that still aren’t going into ORO.  And, if they aren’t reaching ORO we aren’t in a position to see if they are meeting the HEFCE policy.

Are we getting more Open Access items?  From April to March 2016-17 we received 737 Author Accepted Manuscripts that’s compared to 595 deposited in the previous year. Given that deposits of journal articles and conference proceedings are slightly down year on year (1767 in 2016-17 compared to 1873 in 2015-16) that’s some healthy growth in accession of Green Open Access content.

How can we do better? Is often the follow up question.  Firstly, getting better coverage in ORO is one answer and we need to be exploring automated ways of populating ORO to know what the institution is publishing.  Once we have the data we can then go about trying to get the full text, or identifying compliance elsewhere.  Secondly, we need to continue to get the message across about the policy, some researchers remain unclear about the requirements. We need to be creative on both counts.

What’s not working?

Well, there are a few problems for me.  To be fair, some of them are the challenges of Green Open Access, not the policy itself.

“I can’t get the AAM” – We have engaged researchers trying to do Open Access the Green route who are struggling to meet the policy.  Researchers collaborating overseas who aren’t the corresponding author have real issues obtaining the Author Accepted Manuscript from the corresponding author.  We have to remember that the corresponding author may have no knowledge of the UK context and may find the self-archiving process totally alien. Obtaining the full text at all, let alone within 3 months of publication, is a challenge.

“It’s not enough time” – The proposed move to deposit from 3 months from acceptance rather than publication poses a massive challenge for us.  We have been transparent to our researchers and asked for deposit 3 months from publication, not 3 months from acceptance.  And our compliance levels indicate that we are being successful.  However, we should remember the policy is requiring a significant change in behaviour for some researchers not used to the complexities of Green Open Access.  Moving the time frame to 3 months from acceptance would mean our compliance rates would drop.

“Is it really not eligible?” What about those items that haven’t met the policy requirements… are they seriously not eligible for the REF?  Is HEFCE expecting 100% compliance.  I doubt it, but I don’t know.  What I’m expecting are some kind compliance levels to be announced not dissimilar to the RCUK compliance levels introduced when their Open Access Policy was introduced (e.g. in Year 1 45% should be Open Access, in Year 2 53%, Year 3 60%, Year 4 67% and Year 5 75%).  But understandably HEFCE won’t announce that because it might impact on the levels currently being attained – we might take our foot off the pedal.

One danger of this is that we start second guessing the audit HEFCE might undertake. In a light touch audit the home institution may be the only people who know whether something met the 3 month deposit criteria.  So what interest does that institution have to disallow that output from its own REF return?

“It’s not Open Access is it!” –  When we do manage to get Author Accepted Manuscripts and deposit them to the repository, then we look up the embargo periods to see how long we have to lock them down for and we have embargo periods of 18 to 24 months… that’s not Open Access is it? Sometimes, it’s hard not to conclude that it’s more a Repository Deposit Policy than an Open Access Policy.

So, in conclusion, we are getting an increase in Open Access papers available at the OU, which is great, but it’s not without headaches, and a lot of hard work from everyone involved!

Doing Open Access and Being Open Access

As we deal with the increased deposit in the institutional repository precipitated by the HEFCE Open Access Policy it rather strikes me that our increased activities meeting the policy can be seen as doing Open Access but is it really being Open Access?
open-access-graphic-e1338824885146More researchers are conscientiously depositing Author Accepted Manuscripts into ORO to meet the requirement of the HEFCE policy, and in doing so they might think they are Open Access.  But when we have to apply lengthy embargo periods of 12 months, 18 months or 24 months, is this really Open Access?  For me it isn’t, and the increased activity in doing Green Open Access (for us depositing in ORO) brings into stark focus the drawbacks of Green Open Access as defined by the HEFCE policy (specifically allowing longer publisher embargoes than other OA policies).

Complying with publisher embargoes is most keenly felt by Institutional Repositories.  Academic Social Networking sites like ResearchGate don’t pay any attention to them, they are irrelevant to preprint servers (arXiv) and posting on personal websites takes the risk from an institutional level to an individual level, where people are consciously or unconsciously ignoring publisher restrictions.  (In fact in some instances publishers only have embargoes on Institutional Repositories and not on personal websites).

So publisher embargoes affects the efficacity of Institutional Repositories in doing Open Access the most.  And we should be keenly aware of developments in scholarly communications that attempts to do open access, or should I say “content sharing”, in different ways to the traditional routes of Green and Gold Open Access.

SciHub is the most disruptive, a pirate bay for scholarly publications, if you like.  Academic Social networking sites like ResearchGate and are perhaps the most prevalent.  Traditional publishers like Springer/Nature are innovating and developing services that allows content to be read, streaming scholarly publications, but not be downloaded or saved, and almost certainly not, Text and Data Mined (TDM).

So even though researchers are being expected to use Institutional Repositories more to do Open Access.  These places may not be the best place to be Open Access.

And so what happens when a researcher deposits an item in our Institutional Repository only to find a 24 month embargo applied to the item?  What do they then do, and where do they actually go, to be Open Access?

The Metric Tide: Report of the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management

Over the last few years there has been lots of discussion about the use of metrics in research assessment.  An Independent review was commissioned by the government in April 2014 to investigate the current and potential future roles that quantitative indicators can play in the assessment and management of research. Through 15 months of consultation and evidence-gathering, the review looked in detail at the potential uses and limitations of research metrics and indicators, exploring the use of metrics within institutions and across disciplines. Its report, ‘The Metric Tide’, was published in July 2015

One of the main findings of the report is that no metric can provide a like-for-like replacement for REF peer review though carefully selected indicators can complement decision making.

The report also recommends that ORCID ID’s should be mandatory for all researchers submitted to the REF.  ORCID’s are permanent identifiers for researchers and enable researchers to protect their unique scholarly identity. Many funders and journals have adopted ORCID’s so it is worthwhile getting one if you haven’t already.


The OU supporting research

This morning, Chris, Nadine from RSQ and I delivered a session to research managers and administrators on Open Access publishing and Research Data Management. This is a particularly important audience for us, as these are the people who work day-to-day with OU researchers and can really help us to spread the word about policies and services.

The session was very well-attended and I hope that those who came along will have gone back to their desks with a better understanding of the work we are doing in Library Services  to support researchers with managing their research outputs- be they publications or data.

The slides from the session are available here:

New metadata fields in ORO

We’ve made 2 new metadata fields live in ORO; Date of Acceptance & Date of First Availability. These fields are available for Journal Articles and Conference Items.  We’ve built these new fields so that we can comply with HEFCE’s requirements for future REF exercises.

HEFCEFrom April 2016 articles and conference items (with an ISSN) submitted to the REF need to have been deposited in a repository at point of acceptance with the Author’s Accepted Manuscript (AAM).  In order for us to record that an output complies with this requirement we need to capture the Date of Acceptance.

Additionally, we need to record the length of publisher embargoes.  HEFCE requires maximum embargo periods of 12 months for REF Main Panels A & B, and 24 months for REF Main Panels C & D.  So the Date of First Availability will be the date a publisher’s embargo starts.  In ORO we’ll set embargo end dates in accordance with listings on Sherpa Romeo.

To make your publications “REFable” please deposit them in ORO at point of acceptance with the AAM and complete these new pieces of metadata.  Any questions please contact