Open Access and the next REF

Make sure your publication is eligible for the next REF.

Please note, the requirements relating to Open Access and the REF submission stay as below until the new REF OA Policy is published. Consultation on the new Policy will begin in Autumn 2023

To be eligible for submission to the next REF, all journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN accepted from 1st April 2016 must be uploaded to Pure within three months of acceptance of the paper by the journal/conference. 

What do you need to do?

As soon as your paper is accepted for publication by a journal or a conference with proceedings published with an ISSN, you should:

  1.  Create a record in Pure for the output - either an article or conference contribution.
  2.  Add as a minimum the following information to the record:
  • select "peer-reviewed"
  • full date of acceptance (ie dd/mm/yyyy)
  • title of paper
  • all authors
  • journal / conference title
  • Upload the Author Accepted Manuscript to the Electronic version(s), and related files and links section in the record
  • Save the record "For validation"

If you do not have a Pure account, contact

What happens next?

The Pure Support Team will check and set any embargo period on access to the full-text of the paper required by the publisher, and will check the metadata and copyright.  Your Pure research output record will then be validated within one month of deposit in Pure, and available via the Heriot-Watt University Research Portal.  When the embargo period applicable on the paper passes, the paper will automatically be available online via the Portal.

There is a guide available on the Pure SharePoint site on uploading your outputs to Pure, and REF compliance.

If you have any queries, contact


What is an Accepted Manuscript?

The Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) is the version of the paper after peer-review but before any typesetting or proof-reading process has been carried out.

The pre-print (Author's Own Manuscript) is the version submitted to the publisher, and in almost all cases this should not be deposited as it has not been peer-reviewed.

What happens if my paper is published as Gold Open Access?

If you publish your paper as Gold Open Access (ie openly accessible on the publisher's website with a CC BY licence), you can deposit and/or link to the Publisher's Final Version of the paper rather than the AAM.  However, we encourage you to upload the AAM to Pure within three months of acceptance in case there are any issues with the Gold Open Access publishing.

You do not need to pay for Open Access for your paper to be eligible for REF submission.

What happens if I miss the 3 month post-acceptance deadline?

You can still upload your AAM up until 3 months after the paper is first published online. The Pure Team will record this as an allowable exception to the Policy, and the paper will be REF-compliant.

A list of exceptions is published on the HEFCE website. If you think that one of these applies to you and your paper, then contact

The journal in which I wish to publish my paper sets an embargo period before my AAM can be Open Access / doesn't allow me to deposit my paper in my institutional repository

REF rules state that journal embargo periods to Open Access to the deposited paper, after publication online, should not exceed the following maxima:

  • 12 months for REF Main Panel A and REF Main Panel B
  • 24 months for REF Main Panel C and REF Main Panel D

Outputs still under embargo will be accepted for REF, as long as the first publication period is within the REF publication period.

If your journal does not meet the REF Open Access deposit requirements, if it is the best journal for the paper, the paper can be entered into the REF as an exception.