Update on HEFCE’s REF Open Access Policy

Alcohol needed

Librarians reach for alcohol after changes to HEFCE’s OA Policy for the next REF

You may have heard a great collective sigh of despair last week (followed by the clink of gin bottles) as Research Librarians across the UK reacted to HEFCE’s “policy adjustments and qualifications” to the Open Access (OA) policy for the next REF. In most universities across Britain there has been a big effort to make researchers aware of these new and complex open access requirements. Many felt that getting the message out has not been helped by the message being altered – slightly – and the resulting publicity. However, HEFCE are aiming to ease the burden on universities: having reviewed progress across UK institutions in implementing their OA policy, they have now responded to the challenges identified with “flexibility”.

So what has changed for researchers/authors?

  • Timeframe for making outputs OA:
    • BEFORE: the original policy required all eligible outputs to be uploaded into RIS and made open access within 3 months of acceptance for publication (with some allowance for embargo periods). This was due to start on 1 April 2016.
    • NOW: between 1 April 2016 and 1 April 2017, researchers can upload the output to RIS within 3 months of publication. So this essentially gives researchers a temporarily longer period to comply. How long will depend on the time between an article being accepted for publication and its actual publication which will vary greatly between journals and disciplines. As this is only a temporary arrangement (to be reviewed in Autumn 2016), we are still going to be advocating acting within 3 months of acceptance as this remains the core of the HEFCE policy.
  • Gold Open Access
    • BEFORE: even when publishing via the “Gold” (paid-for) open access route, researchers still had to upload the accepted version of a paper as a minimum within 3 months of acceptance (or the final published version if that was available).
    • NOW: this is still strongly encouraged but depositing gold open access papers is now an exception to the policy “where depositing the output on acceptance is not felt to deliver significant additional benefit”.
  • Compliance
    • BEFORE: zero tolerance of failure to adhere to the Open Access policy and those outputs would be ruled out of the REF unless they had claimed an exception.
    • NOW: “we will therefore be tolerant of occasional failures where institutions have made best endeavours towards achieving full compliance”. They are considering a period of grace to allow any missed outputs to comply “likely to be three months after the end of the REF publication period”.

The spirit of the original policy has not changed and the “Swansea University Open Access Policy” still adheres to the principle of deposit being required within 3 months of acceptance. We have updated our resources but the “In a Nutshell” section on our guidance document remains unchanged:

  • The date of acceptance for publication is the critical point for an author to act.
  • Details of your publication (as much as you know at that point) should be entered into RIS and published to Cronfa
  • The “author accepted manuscript” / “final peer-reviewed manuscript” / “post-print” should be uploaded to RIS and published to Cronfa, respecting any copyright conditions imposed by the publisher (e.g. embargo periods).
  • Ensure the full publication details are completed when these are known.
  • The policy applies to journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN but credit will be given for “enabling open access” for all outputs.

As always, we can help at any point if you have questions or concerns: iss-research@swansea.ac.uk

Swansea University’s OA Guidance sheet (PDF) and guide to using RIS (PDF).

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