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REF submission guidance: what it means for open access

Catherine LSharp26 July 2018

The new draft REF submission guidance includes two sections on open access: paragraphs 107-116 on the intent of the REF open access policy, and paragraphs 213-245 on the detail of the requirements. For the most part, the new provisions restate the requirements that will by now be familiar to all academics. One or two changes and adjustments may be helpful for UCL authors, though.

1. A key change that will affect UCL’s REF submission as a whole is that a small percentage – 5% – of the total number of articles and conference papers that an institution submits may be non-compliant. This is very welcome, because it will allow us to submit some older outputs that were accepted before authors were used to the open access requirements. In due course, UCL will introduce guidelines for submitting non-compliant outputs, but these will be selected very carefully. Note that this provision should be treated with caution, and authors should not rely on it for any existing or new papers.

More widely, the new guidance emphasises that the environment section will allow units of assessment to demonstrate where they have gone beyond the REF requirements. This is one of the reasons that UCL’s monthly compliance reports to departments include all articles and conference papers.  Academics should continue to upload all papers to RPS within 3 months of first online publication (ideally within 3 months of acceptance), regardless of whether they will be submitted to the REF.

2. There is a second important change for users of arXiv and other preprint services. Where a paper has been uploaded to a preprint service, and the version in the preprint service is the same as the accepted manuscript, and it was uploaded to the preprint service before it was published online, the paper complies with the open access policy. This is particularly good news for users of arXiv, but it does not mean that all papers in arXiv comply with the open access policy.

UCL’s Open Access Team already assesses papers in arXiv and uploads them to RPS (to demonstrate compliance with the policy) where they are Gold open access, where the arXiv version is identified as the accepted manuscript, or where the publisher allows the published version to be used in RPS/UCL Discovery. This additional provision means that if authors confirm that the version in arXiv is the same as the accepted manuscript/published version, the paper can be marked as compliant in RPS. If this applies to any of your papers, please contact the Open Access Team (open-access@ucl.ac.uk).

3. The guidance restates the exceptions to the policy, including the exception where a new member of staff uploaded their manuscript to their previous institution’s repository. UCL’s advice remains the same: where this exception applies, academics should contact the Open Access Team (open-access@ucl.ac.uk) so that we can check whether the paper complies and record the exception if not.

4. There is no change to the timing requirements. The strict requirement is that papers are uploaded to RPS within three months of acceptance (defined as the “’firm’ accepted date”), but there is an exception (which UCL’s Open Access Team will apply) for papers that do not meet this deadline, but that are uploaded within 3 months of first online publication (the “’early online’ date”). In practice, if a record does not appear in RPS within one month of first online publication, authors are advised to create a manual record, and to upload their manuscript to it. There is a guide to creating manual records on our webpages.

Please contact the Open Access Team for more information.