We are awaiting guidance for the post-2021 REF open access policy for outputs, and would currently advise anyone submitting a journal article or conference paper from 1 January 2021 to follow the REF 2021 open access policy guidance. As soon as open access requirements for the post-2021 REF period are available, information will be shared. If you are funded by UKRI, Wellcome Trust, BHF, CRUK and/or NIHR, please consult our pages on Research funders’ open access policies.


The REF 2021 open access policy applies to all journal articles and conference papers accepted for publication from 1 April 2016. During the transitional period of the policy implementation, you need to deposit your paper/s within 3 months from the date of publication. From 1 April 2018 the REF 2021 policy will require deposit of the accepted manuscript within 3 months of acceptance. The full policy and FAQs are currently available at the REF2021 site.

By depositing your accepted manuscript in Spiral now, your final published journal article or conference paper will be eligible for submission to the REF 2021. To do this, you must upload a copy of your accepted manuscript to Symplectic, or ask a proxy to do so. The Library’s open access team will manage all accepted manuscript submissions to ensure you have provided sufficient information, and that the submitted manuscript meets the REF 2021 eligibility requirements.

If you have deposited your accepted manuscript in arXiv, you do not need to upload the manuscript to Symplectic. A change to the OA policy was made during summer 2018 where if the ‘accepted for publication’ text, or near final version, is available on a pre-print service, and the output upload date of the pre-print is prior to the date of output publication, this will be considered as compliant with the open access criteria (deposit, discovery, and access)’. We can only advise that arXiv is currently compliant as many other preprint servers do not permit the deposit of the accepted manuscript. Please see the FAQs for more information.

Your final journal article or conference paper does not have to be published on ‘gold’ open access, i.e. you do not have to pay an open access fee or APC, to be eligible for the REF 2021.

You can read the full Guidance on submissions and FAQs written by HEFCE on their site. Library Services, the Research Office and ICT Research Support Services are all working to support staff to comply with the policy, and more information about the whole REF 2021 process can be found at the College’s REF 2021 pages. To find out more about how the open access policy affects you, please see our FAQs or contact the Library’s open access team.

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.

This video shows you how to use Spiral and Symplectic to upload your research outputs and make them eligible for REF.

How to deposit a file in Spiral via Symplectic

This video shows you how to use Spiral and Symplectic to upload your research outputs and make them eligible for REF.

Find out more here about the relationship between Symplectic and Spiral