The Research Excellence Framework (REF)


The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions and allocating funding for this research to institutions. In England the REF is coordinated by Research England.

There is an open access policy included within the REF policy. This policy aims to ‘increase substantially the amount of scholarly material that is made available in an open-access form’.

This means there are specific requirements that you will need to be aware of when publishing if you wish to submit your research for consideration in the REF.

If an output is covered in the REF open access policy (as outlined below), you must submit it to the Oxford University Research Archive (ORA) within 3 months of acceptance.

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Open access outputs covered in the REF

Eligibility criteria for REF:

  • final peer-reviewed version of journal articles and conference papers (in publications with an ISSN)
  • accepted on or after 1st April 2016
  • deposited in an open access repository
  • deposit within three months of acceptance for publication.


  • an embargo allowance of 12 months is allowed for STEM outputs
  • an embargo allowance of 24 months is permitted for HUMSS (Humanities and Social Sciences) outputs

Failure to follow these requirements will render the research outputs ineligible for REF.

What do I need to do?

Not all 'REFable' outputs need to be made open access. However, you should register all your research outputs in Symplectic Elements in order for them to be considered for the REF.

If an output is covered in the REF open access policy (as outlined above), you must submit it to the Oxford University Research Archive (ORA) within 3 months of acceptance.

You do this by registering the output in Symplectic Elements and then attaching a document for deposit.

Once a document has been attached it is sent to the ORA team who add the relevant metadata and check copyright and compliance. They will then make it open access after any required embargo limit has passed.

Further information and FAQ

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Although you may submit your accepted manuscript to ORA to fulfil their open access requirements for the REF, the published version of record will be the version used by REF during the assessment. 

You do not have to pay an APC to be 'REFable.'

Depositing the accepted version in an open access repository ensures it is eligible: the REF policy does not ask for the final published version.

You can choose to publish in a 'gold' open access journal (which may require a fee for publication) if that is the most appropriate publication for you, but it is not a requirement for REF.

UKRI compliant? You'll be REFable.

The following is in UKRI's official FAQ (checked 04/07/23):

It is the intention that the UK higher education funding bodies will consider a UKRI open access compliant publication to meet any future national research assessment open access policy without additional action from the author and/or institution.

So if you are compliant with the UKRI funder's policy, you will be able to submit your outputs to the REF with no further action.

Other Plan S funded authors?

There is much similarity between UKRI policies and those of other Plan S signatories, such as Wellcome. It is likely that if you are compliant with these funders you will need to take no further action, but this will be confirmed once the new REF policy is finalised in 2024.

The following summary may be of use when contacting co-authors outside the UK who are unfamiliar with the REF to request a copy of the AAM:

“The UK government has an open access policy which requires university researchers to deposit their journal articles into their institutional repository. The version required is the final peer-reviewed manuscript (also known as the author accepted manuscript). In the case of co-authored articles, UK authors are encouraged to request a copy from the lead author.

An accepted manuscript is the final peer-reviewed version, before the publisher’s copy-editing, proof corrections, layout and typesetting.

The policy aims to increase the amount of research publications which are available open access and is part of the UK’s Research Excellence Framework, a national assessment of the quality and impact of university research whose results are used to allocate research funding.”