REF Open Access & Gold OA


The REF open access policy (which comes into effect on 1st April 2016) was not designed to compel authors to pay for gold open access. In the original policy they state: “Institutions can achieve full compliance without incurring any additional publication costs through article processing charges”. Instead the focus of HEFCE’s policy is encouraging researchers to take the free “green” route of uploading their papers to institutional repositories.

Do you need to pay for gold open access for the REF?

No, only in one situation: HEFCE have a limit on the embargo periods permitted for the green self-deposit route (12 months for Panels A & B, 24 months for Panels C & D). If you have had an article accepted for publication in a journal which has an embargo period longer than HEFCE allows then you will need to pay for gold open access so that your paper is eligible for the REF unless you can justify an exception. We have a central fund available for RCUK researchers; an agreement is also in place that covers many Springer journals.

What do you need to do for the REF if you paid for gold open access?

If you have paid to publish open access you don’t have to upload a version of your paper to RIS to comply with the open access policy for the REF but it is still strongly encouraged (see below).

What you DO need to do is to set the drop-down box in RIS for “Processing Charge” to “Paid” and add details of the funder(s) in the following box (separate multiple funders with a comma):


This will flag in the system that this is a Gold OA paper and we will not then chase you up for your accepted manuscript! ISS staff may upload a copy of the paper where permitted to the repository, particularly if you have used our RCUK fund.

The policy background

If you have paid to publish a paper via the “Gold” route, then you are covered by the exception stated in policy section 38f: “The output was published as ‘gold’ open access (for example, RCUK-funded projects where an open access article processing charge has been paid)”. However they do still “strongly encourage these outputs to be deposited in a repository to facilitate preservation, aggregation and text-mining”.

HEFCE adjusted the policy back in 2015 and this is the wording of their section on “Gold open-access outputs”:

“We further recognise that many papers will be published as ‘gold’ open access, and will therefore be available as the final published version-of-record2. We believe that there are significant benefits to the deposit of gold OA outputs – repositories support the effective preservation, aggregation and text-mining of research material. However, we recognise that when publishing as gold OA, authors typically prefer to deposit the final published version instead of the accepted manuscript, and that in some cases this will not be available within three months of acceptance. In light of this, we have decided to introduce an exception to the deposit requirements for outputs published via the gold route. This may be used in cases where depositing the output on acceptance is not felt to deliver significant additional benefit. We would strongly encourage these outputs to be deposited as soon as possible after publication, ideally via automated arrangements, but this will not be a requirement of the policy.”


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