Frequently asked questions

I have never deposited a paper in Spiral before, where do I start?

Depositing a paper in Spiral is easy, and takes about 5 minutes.

There are two deposit guides depending on whether your work has just been accepted for publication or has already been published. If you need more help, please get in touch with the Library’s open access team.

Can I use Spiral to comply with REF?

Yes. The four UK HE funding bodies believe that the outputs of research should be as widely accessible as possible. For this reason, they have introduced a new policy for open access in relation to research assessments after the 2014 REF.

The policy states that, to be eligible for submission to the next REF, authors’ final peer-reviewed manuscripts must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository. Deposited material should be discoverable, and free to read and download, for anyone with an internet connection.  Spiral is a REF-compliant research repository.

What is the REF census period for outputs?

Only outputs that were produced by the College between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2020 are REF 2021 eligible. Outputs produced after this date will be eligible for the next Research Excellence Framework which is scheduled for 2027.

At which point in the publishing process is it best to deposit a paper?

To ensure your work will be eligible for submission to the next REF, you must deposit the accepted manuscript in a repository (Spiral). You are advised to deposit this version of your work to Symplectic as soon as your publisher has notified you of acceptance for publication.

If your publisher requests an embargo is placed on the availability of your work in a repository, the Library’s open access team will check and apply all relevant embargoes. So please still deposit.

Can I deposit a link of the preprint server (e.g. arXiv, medRxiv, biorXiv) for my accepted work?

Yes, if your preprint version is accepted and you wish to deposit the preprint link, you can do so but please send the following statement to the Open Access Team to confirm the preprint is the accepted version.

Dear Open Access Team,

I, the author of TITLE, DOI/CITATION, can confirm that the version of the paper currently held in PREPRINT SERVER NAME:PREPRINT NUMBER, version 1/2/3/4 etc., is the accepted manuscript version of this paper, which was submitted to PREPRINT NAME on INSERT PREPRINT DEPOSIT DATE, prior to its first publication on PUBLICATION DATE.

Kind regards, AUTHOR’S NAME

Which version of my article should I deposit?

The HEFCE policy for the REF 2021 requires you to deposit your final peer-reviewed accepted manuscript in your institutional repository. This is also the version that most publishers will permit you to deposit.

More about accepted article versions

How will I know if a co-author has deposited a paper?

When depositing or claiming your work in Symplectic, you can check the presence and status of deposited files. If there is no file attached to any claimed work, you will know that none of your co-authors have yet deposited a copy.

Imperial co-authors will receive an email when a relevant paper is deposited, and it is good practice to inform your co-authors when you have deposited on their behalf.

Can I deposit an unpublished paper or preprint in Spiral?

We would advise you to continue to use a preprint repository in your discipline, such as arXiv or bioRxiv, if you want to make a preprint openly available.

However, the version you should deposit in Spiral is the accepted manuscript (which is after the peer review process) as this is the version required by HEFCE and other funders to meet open access policies.

My publisher requires an embargo when I deposit my work to a repository – how do I add one?

The Library’s open access team will check your publisher’s policy and set an appropriate embargo. Embargoes in Spiral are automatically lifted when completed.

Why has the version of my work that I uploaded been declined?

If you receive a notification email from the Library that the version of a work that you uploaded cannot be deposited to Spiral, the reason for this will be included in the email. If you are unclear as to what the reason is, please contact the Library’s open access team.

How long does it take for my paper to be available on Spiral?

The open access team aims to make papers available as quickly as possible.

The time taken will depend on the level of copyright and metadata checks that are required to process the deposit by library staff.

How do I pass on additional information to the library staff processing my papers?

 Please send any additional information by email to the Library’s open access team including information that will identify the work it refers to.

Who can I ask to help interpret my publisher's agreement/contract?

For help with copyright transfer and publishing contracts please contact including a link to any information you have or attaching a copy of your publisher’s contract.

Where can I find my publisher's open access policy?

Look at your copyright transfer agreement/ license or check the following website for self-archiving policies of publishers SHERPA/RoMEO.

How does the Library check copyright permissions?

Library staff use their knowledge of copyright, publishers' websites and the SHERPA/RoMEO database to judge whether or not you are permitted to deposit the uploaded version of a paper to Spiral. They may contact you to provide additional information.

Do I need to add a copyright statement?

No. This is added by library staff.

Can my paper be downloaded by anyone?

All papers in Spiral can be accessed by anyone. Those downloading material agree to the terms of the Use license.

What is the “Request a copy” button?

When an item in Spiral is under an embargo, users can still use the “Request a copy” button to send a request to the author for a copy. One-to-one sharing of published articles is permitted by exceptions in Copyright Law (see Fair Dealing), however, it is at the author’s discretion if requests are granted or not.

Citation: Fair Dealing

Sale, Arthur, Couture, Marc, Rodrigues, Eloy, Carr, Les and Harnad, Stevan (2014) Open Access Mandates and the "Fair Dealing" Button In, Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.). University of Toronto Press

How will people find my work in Spiral?

Spiral is an open access repository, which means its contents are freely available to the public. Spiral is indexed and harvested by Google Scholar Open Access content aggregators such as Core  and Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) and OpenAIRE which aggregates the discovery of EC and ERC open access funded research.

How much is Spiral used each year?

There is an average download rate of 39,496 per month for articles and theses via Spiral.

(statistics from IRUS-UK)

Should I upload my papers / thesis to ResearchGate?

Research Gate and are not repositories but social networking sites aimed at researchers. They regularly encourage researchers to upload and share their latest research papers but just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. What you can do with a paper after it has been accepted for publication depends upon your publishing agreement.

If you published your paper as open access and with a Creative Commons Licence then the answer is likely to be yes, but if you didn’t then your paper will behind the publisher’s paywall. To make a copy of the published version openly available on the web would be a breach of the publishing agreement you signed.

Imperial recommends that you upload your paper to Spiral, the College's research repository. It will be safe and provide you with a link you can paste anywhere, including ResearchGate. Many members of College are uploading their accepted manuscripts to Spiral in preparation for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF), see guide to depositing an accepted paper in Spiral.

If you still wish to deposit in ResearchGate, please read the terms and conditions in the footer of the website. ResearchGate is a commercially run networking site, similar to Facebook and LinkedIn, and it is important to be aware of how they might use the content you upload.

When using ResearchGate, remember not all papers have been uploaded with the permission of the rights holder. As responsible researcher you should always obtain papers from a legal source such as the Library or a research repository. If the article your want is not available via Library Search, use the Open Access Button or Unpaywall to quickly find out if a repository copy exists.

Symplectic & Spiral – what’s the relationship?

Spiral is the College’s institutional repository for research outputs – it contains full-text documents only and aims to be a showcase for the research that Imperial’s research community carries out. Symplectic Elements is the College’s Current Research Information System which the same research community uses to maintain its research profile such as grants and publications - it is not a full-text repository.

Authors who wish to upload copies of their publications to Spiral for compliance with REF 2021 are asked to use Symplectic Elements - and the Open Access team in the Library will process this for ultimate deposit in Spiral. Those who wish to pay for open access via the Gold OA route can also apply using Symplectic.

Spiral is freely available to the public, indexed and harvested by Google Scholar as well as Open Access content aggregators such as CoreBielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) and OpenAIRE which aggregates the discovery of EC and ERC open access funded research. So if the work appears in Spiral it will also appear in many Internet search results returned.

Researchers maintain a list of their research outputs via Symplectic which is displayed on their Professional Web Pages (PWP). Any changes that need to be made to records in Spiral should be made in Symplectic first (changes are not reflected in Spiral automatically) and then those changes requested from the Open Access Team. “MySpiral” from within Spiral is for administrators who process research papers from Symplectic and doctoral students who upload their theses.

A note on Spiral’s search engine functionality

Spiral uses a repository software called (DSpace) (many other institutions use it too). The search engine of our current instance of Spiral is not as effective as we would like it to be. However the content within Spiral is discoverable from outside and is harvested regularly. We expect to upgrade several instances of DSpace during 2018.

If you have feedback on the Spiral service or Symplectic Elements you can provide it via this web form 

There is already a preprint record (e.g. arXiv, medRxiv, bioRxiv) for my paper that is accepted for publication. Should I use that record?

As the accepted manuscript (which has gone through the peer review process) is a new output, we would advise you to create a new Symplectic record for your accepted work by following the instruction on the accepted for publication page.

Can I deposit my book chapter or monograph?

Book chapters and books are not in scope for REF, but authors are encouraged to deposit thein Spiral as outlined under Imperial’s Open Access Policy. Some publishers allow your chapter to be made available via Spiral if it is the accepted version and usually after an embargo period.  

See the self-archiving policies of some publishers for book chapters and monographs: 

You can deposit your book chapter by creating a record in Symplectic. To do this, go to 'Home' page in your Symplectic profile and click '+ add'. Then, you will be able to create a record. 

For more information about open access book publishing, visit OA Books Toolkit. 

See book chapters and monographs listed in Spiral.