Books & the REF: a small update

HEFCE have updated their FAQs for the REF Open Access policy (no.7.3) with a small but significant statement concerning books (in bold below):

“As noted in FAQ 2.1, it is not a requirement that books be made available in an open-access form to be admissible as outputs to the next REF.

As we stated more broadly in our circular letter of July 2015 (20/2015), we will expect institutions to include a short description in each submission on progress towards delivering open access, including their overall approach to open access strategy and infrastructure. While we have not developed detailed guidance, we may be particularly interested in any quantitative evidence of the proportion of published books that are made available as OA, as part of this statement.

We have already blogged on developments around the open access academic monograph and the open access options available, most of which have a fairly substantial cost. It will be interesting to see how any future requirements for books to be made open access (as seems likely for the REF  beyond the next one) can be achieved without substantial resourcing. This blog post gives an interesting overview and highlights the potential role of the university press in this.

As stated above, the current REF Open Access policy does not include books and book chapters. Regarding journal articles and conference proceedings, it notes that “institutions can achieve full compliance without incurring any additional publication costs through article processing charges” i.e. by taking the green route to open access.

The REF Open Access policy is now in operation…

The countdown is over – the REF policy is now active

Any papers accepted for publication after 1st April 2016 must now comply with the REF’s open access policy. The university expects all papers to be compliant even if you do not anticipate that they will form part of the REF – the university’s own open access policy  applies to all publications produced by our researchers.

To ensure you comply with the policy:

  • Take action when you have a paper accepted for publication
  • Enter details of the publication onto RIS including the accepted date
  • Upload your accepted manuscript into RIS
  • Check the copyright for the journal using the Sherpa Romeo database
  • Use the “Publish to Cronfa” link to make your file open access, setting an embargo period if required. The system will delay publication until the date you specify.

The REF policy limits embargo periods to 12 or 24 months so contact us if you find the journal exceeds this.

We are here to help: Please send us your accepted manuscript and details of the publication including the date of acceptance.

Quick guide to uploading files to RIS (PDF)

Guide to using RIS (PDF)

(We have some briefing sessions next week if you want to learn more or ask questions.)

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.”


Which version of my article should I deposit in RIS?

I don't know

We have noticed that people are often confused about which version of their article they should put in Cronfa. This isn’t surprising as articles have a lifecycle of their own. Typically you will have:

First draft / preprint – this may well not have page numbers and won’t have any of the journal formatting. This will be sent off to the journal and sent out to peer reviewers.

Author accepted manuscript or postprint – this is the version which has been passed by peer reviewers and may have had some changes due to their comments. It is this version which you need to deposit in RIS / Cronfa to be eligible for the REF. It will still typically be in Word format and won’t have had journal formatting such as Journal title, page numbers etc. added yet. This is not the same as “In press” or “online first” versions which have publisher formatting and shouldn’t be used without publisher permission.

Documents will be eligible for the REF if they contain things like track changes and corrections. However, this will be available to the wider world so make it look as professional as you have time for.

Published version or Version of Record – this will contain all the publisher’s formatting and is in appears as it will in the journal. In some cases you can deposit the published version – this will be where your article is “gold” open access. Usually you will have paid an article processing charge for this to apply.

You can find information on inputting versions to RIS in a previous post.

Which do you need to deposit to be eligible for the REF?

You will usually need to deposit at least the author accepted manuscript / postprint. The REF will require a version which is post peer-review. You may need an embargo period to satisfy your publisher – check Sherpa Romeo or contact

We hope this makes things clearer. However, there are journals which use different procedures and where formatting is applied earlier in the process so please do contact us if you are still unsure what to deposit.

hourglass Don’t forget that you need to start doing this by 1 April 2016 at the latest!

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:

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

Discussing the HEFCE and RCUK Open Access policies

Photo of Steven Hill from HEFCE presenting
Steven Hill from HEFCE

Both HEFCE and RCUK representatives were presenting at the “OA Advocacy Workshop: Joining the Dots” event in London on Friday so it was a good chance to hear discussion and debate about their respective open access policies (up on the HEFCE and RCUK websites). The presentations they used are below and I am simply highlighting the key points that appealed to me (and errors in interpretation are entirely my fault).

The RCUK policy in particular has been in the news as the first independent review was published today with some recommendations for change. Mark Thorley from RCUK alluded to this review in his talk but could not divulge details at the time. He emphasized that scholarly communication needed to adapt to a digital, networked world where anyone could publish and disseminate on the web – we need to ensure that quality peer-reviewed outputs are there – and freely accessible – to address the less well informed or researched viewpoints.

Steven Hill from HEFCE emphasized the simplicity at the heart of the new post-2014 REF Open Access policy – they want everything open access! This means increasing the uptake of open access options, boosting the use of repositories, urging researchers themselves to take action to achieve this:

He was quite frank that HEFCE were not opting for the path of least resistance and recognized they are setting an ambitious target. Someone asked about the promise of extra credit for institutions who embrace open access that has been mentioned in the REF policy – whilst nothing has been clarified on this, the example he gave was institutions embracing a CC-BY licence for a high percentage publications. He also mentioned that including monographs in open access requirements was something they hoped to address sooner rather than later.

Both speakers agreed that their emphasis was firmly upon improving the dissemination of research, even if there was a short-term cost which may cut into the money going directly for research.

Sarah Fahmy also gave an update on the many ways JISC are working to help the sector cope with the new open access demands. There are no guarantees that they will be able to get things in place for the start of the REF policy on 1 April 2016 but they are trying to develop at speed (“agile”). The overview was very similar to this presentation from Digifest which illustrates all the work going on at present:

Swansea University & Open Access

At Swansea, we have already been out spreading the word on the new REF Open Access policy and listening to concerns so we can support our researchers with these new demands on their time. We will be continuing this work next term but see our webpages or contact us at if you have questions or would like us to come and speak with your department / research group.

“Getting REF-ready” resources

We had the first briefing today on the new HEFCE open access policy that will govern the post-2014 REF submissions. Lots of good questions and comments! We will be running more sessions over the coming months (years?) but the key information is available here:

Contact if you would like us to come and speak with any gatherings of researchers. The next open-to-all session on March 18th is almost fully booked but we will announce more dates soon.

Getting REF-ready: find out more about the new REF Open Access policy

We are running some general briefings for any Swansea University research staff who wish to learn more about the HEFCW open access policy (and the University’s own Open Access mandate) and what it means for them:

“Getting REF-ready: what you need to do for HEFCW’s new open access policy”

This briefing will give an overview of HEFCW/HEFCE’s open access policy which governs which papers will be eligible for the next post-2014 REF. HEFCE state that “The author is responsible. It is a feature of this policy that it places a responsibility on authors to deposit their work and consider their open access options” so all Swansea University researchers need to be aware of these new requirements. Come along to find out what needs to be done when you have a publication accepted and how we can support you with this.

There are 2 sessions scheduled:

More information: or contact

HEFCW/HEFCE Policy information:

Have your say on a new service to help with REF2020

The Centre for Research Communications at the University of Nottingham is developing a new SHERPA/REF service to help authors comply with the open access policy for a post-2014 Research Excellence Framework.   All survey responders will be entered into a draw to receive a £50 Amazon voucher (or another e-retailer of their choice).


Librarians and research support staff:

Both surveys should take no more than 15 minutes to complete, and your opinions and thoughts are highly valued by the SHERPA/REF team as contributing to defining a successful service.

The survey is being run by: