Open AccessREF measurement

UKRI (formerly HEFCE), the body responsible for coordinating the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF), has announced an OA policy (pdf) which will underpin research assessment for REF2021.

To be eligible for submission to the REF2021, a research output must have been deposited in an institutional repository on acceptance for publication and must be made open access as soon as possible after publication.

UKRI announced this policy in conjunction with the REF in order to accelerate and further OA progress at UK higher education institutions.

The version of the article that is required to be deposited and made open access (freely available) is the Accepted Author Manuscript (AAM), with the peer-review comments implemented as it was accepted for publication. Depending on the publisher, these articles may be subject to an embargo period, after which the article can be made freely available.

The key components of the UKRI OA policy:

  • Research outputs must be deposited in an institutional repository as soon after the point of acceptance as possible and no later than three months after the acceptance date.
  • Strathclyde authors should deposit their final, peer-reviewed manuscript in Pure immediately after the acceptance date as stated in the last correspondence from the publisher to the author.
  • Only the accepted author manuscript (AAM) will meet UKRI compliance requirements.  Pre-prints are not acceptable. The AAM is your corrected version, after peer review, prior to any type-setting or work by the publisher (not the final published version). This is also sometimes referred to as the Author's Manuscript or post-print.
  • Applies to all journal articles or conference proceedings with an ISSN.
  • There are allowances for publisher embargoes to be respected.  The maximum embargo periods are:
    • 12 months for Panel A and B (Stem)
    • 24 months for Panel C and D (HaSS)

Research outputs that are still under embargo can be selected for the next REF provided that the date of first publication is within the REF reporting period.

Date of acceptance

The date of acceptance is the point at which the author is notified that their output has been reviewed by the journal or conference (normally via peer review) and all academically necessary changes have been made in response to that review.  The article is ready to be taken through the final steps toward publication (normally copy-editing and typesetting)

By this point, the paper should have been updated to include all changes resulting from peer review as well as any changes of an academic nature requested by the journal editor or conference organiser. At this stage, the journal editor or conference organiser normally notifies the author that their paper has been ‘firmly’ accepted (as opposed to any earlier point of ‘provisional acceptance’) and the paper is ready for copy-editing or typesetting; it is the date of this notification that should be taken to mean the date of acceptance.

The author’s final, accepted manuscript is the one that has been agreed with the editor at that point. The accepted manuscript is not the same as the copy-edited, typeset or published paper – these versions are known as ‘proofs’ or ‘versions of record’ and publishers do not normally allow authors to make these open access.‌

Where a publisher does not operate peer-review, the Author's Final, accepted manuscript is considered to be the final version of the manuscript submitted to the publisher for publication.

From UKRI's Open Access Policy - REF2021.


There are a limited number of situations where an output may be exempt from the open access policy, for example, where research outputs using third-party materials (photographs, film, recordings) for which copyright for online publication was not achievable. 

We expect that such cases will be extremely rare. The open access advocacy librarian,, can provide further advice on this if you have concerns.

Any output that falls within the scope of this policy and is submitted to the REF2021, but does not meet the requirements without a valid exception will be given an unclassified score and will not be assessed.

The University of Strathclyde began implementation of the policy in July 2014, thereby ensuring the future REF eligility of all staff. For the post-2021 REF we are currently applying the same policy we used for REF2021 although an updated set of requirements is expected in Q1 2022. This policy is widely expected to be aligned with the new UKRI policy.