REF 2021 open access policy
Frequently asked questions
What do I need to deposit?
The REF Open Access policy applies to all journal articles and conference proceedings accepted for publication on or after 1st April 2016. Conference abstracts and posters, book chapters, monographs, reports etc. are not required to be deposited to Spiral for REF purposes, though they still can be.
How do I make my work eligible?
When you receive notification from your publisher that your journal article or conference paper has been accepted for publication, you should then upload a copy of the accepted manuscript to Symplectic. HEFCE require that the deposit must take place within three months of acceptance.
When you upload your manuscript you need to enter the date of acceptance, and some basic metadata (journal article title, authors, DOI if available). When you have submitted this, the Library’s open access team will check your manuscript version, verify the metadata, and deposit the metadata and manuscript in Spiral. Your work is then eligible for the REF 2021.
NEW What about post REF 2021?
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.
I forgot to upload my accepted manuscript, and my article/ paper has been published. What do I do?
You can still upload the accepted manuscript to Symplectic, so please do this as soon as possible.
During the policy transitional period, your work will be eligible for the next REF if the accepted manuscript is deposited to a repository within 3 months of the publication date. However, you are strongly advised to adopt the practice of depositing the accepted manuscript at the point of acceptance. After this transitional period your deposit will have to be within 3 months of the acceptance date to be eligible for the next REF.
My publisher will not permit me to deposit my accepted manuscript in a repository. What do I do?
HEFCE have allowed for a number of exceptions where work cannot meet their open access eligibility requirements. Publishers who do not allow deposit of the accepted manuscript are included in these exceptions. Please contact the Library’s open access team for further advice.
My publisher has asked for an embargo to be placed on access to my accepted manuscript. What do I do?
You should still upload your manuscript to Symplectic at the point of acceptance as embargoes will not affect the eligibility requirements. If there is an embargo on open access, your accepted manuscript will be ‘hidden’ in Spiral until the embargo is lifted. The Library’s open access team will ensure embargoes are correctly applied.
I cannot make my accepted manuscript open access because of IP or security reasons. What do I do?
HEFCE have allowed for a number of exceptions where work cannot meet their open access eligibility requirements. If it is ‘unlawful to deposit’ or deposit would ‘present a security risk’, then your work should not be deposited in a repository, and eligibility for submission to the REF 2021 is not affected.
When I have uploaded my accepted manuscript to Symplectic, how do I know my work will be eligible?
Spiral is a HEFCE-compliant repository. During the policy transitional period your work will be eligible as long as you have uploaded the accepted manuscript to Symplectic within 3 months of publication. The Library’s open access team will then ensure that the correct version of your work and appropriate metadata and bibliographic details are made available in Spiral within the time limit stated in the REF 2021 eligibility requirements.
Following the end of the transitional period the same procedure will apply to all work, which have to be uploaded within 3 months of acceptance.
Which version of my work is the accepted manuscript?
This should be the post-peer review version of your manuscript (i.e. the version that includes all the corrections following peer-review), before copy-editing and formatting. Any pre-peer review versions will not be considered the accepted manuscript.
You can view an example of an author accepted manuscript and the stage in which you should be in receipt of one on slides 15-16 from our Presentation on SlideShare.
Does my work have to be published as gold (author pays) open access to be eligible?
No. It is the accepted version of your work, not the final published version, which must be open access in a repository to be eligible. You can choose to publish in a gold open access journal if that is the most appropriate publication for you, but it is not a requirement for REF 2021 eligibility.
My paper has been accepted in an (author pays) gold open access journal, do I have to upload a copy of the accepted manuscript to Symplectic?
No. HEFCE have amended the policy to state that where a gold version of the published paper is available, the accepted manuscript does not have to be deposited in a repository. You must still ensure that the date of acceptance and a link to the article (OA location) are entered in Symplectic for the relevant paper to ensure compliance. Please contact the Library’s open access team for help.
However, if you are applying for APC funding from the funds held at Imperial (RCUK/Wellcome Trust/CRUK/BHF) then you will need to upload a copy of your accepted manuscript as part of your application. For more information see Applying for Funding.
However, if you are applying for APC funding from the funds held at Imperial (RCUK/Wellcome Trust/CRUK/BHF) then you will need to upload a copy of your accepted manuscript as part of your application. For more information see
I’ve already deposited my work in another repository. Do I have to put it in Spiral too?
No. If the version of the work in the repository is the accepted manuscript, we ask you to enter the link to the manuscript in Symplectic. To do this, use the 'Deposit my work' function in Symplectic, and select the 'OA location' tab to provide the link. You don’t have to upload a manuscript.
If the version of the work is a pre-print (pre peer review), then you will have to make sure that when the accepted manuscript is available it is deposited either in the same repository or in Spiral. It is only the deposit of an accepted manuscript version (peer reviewed) that will make your final work eligible for the next REF.
How do I upload my work to Symplectic?
Can I still publish in the journal that I have always published in?
Yes. HEFCE and the College are clear that authors have free choice to publish in the journal or publication that is most appropriate.
How can I find out about the open access policy of my journal?
How do I add a Date of Acceptance (DoA) to my publication?
If you are claiming a post-publication record, e.g. from PubMed or WOS, you will need to click on the tab 'Add manual record' within the record, to be able to edit the record, and add a Date of Acceptance (DoA). You do not need to create a separate record, as this will cause duplication.
If a Manual record has already been created, click on the plus sign (shown below) and then click on ‘Edit Record’.
How do I make a manuscript deposited in arXiv eligible?
The accepted manuscript should be uploaded to the relevant arXiv preprint record. You must ensure that the arXiv record has a note of the date of acceptance and what version of the manuscript is uploaded. You must then enter the arXiv URL into the OA location in the relevant Symplectic publication record. Contact the open access team if you need any further help.
Which pre-print services can I use to make my work eligible?
We would only advise that arXiv is compliant with the REF 2021 OA policy because you can upload accepted manuscripts. Other pre-print services do not allow the upload of accepted manuscripts and therefore would not allow you to meet the specified requirement for eligibility.
What do the exceptions mean on my publication records in the Symplectic Assessment module?
There are a number of exceptions which can be set against your publications. Please read Open access flags in the REF Assessment module in Symplectic Elements (PDF) for a guide to those which are most commonly used, and speak to your local REF contact in your department if you have any queries.