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The intent of the REF open access policy is to provide a set of minimum requirements for open access.  Note that these requirements may differ from open access requirements of research funders.


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REF 2021 Open Access Policy

The REF 2021 Open Access policy applies to journal articles and conference contributions (with an ISSN) which are accepted for publication after 1 April 2016, and published on or before 31 December 2020. 

1. Outputs accepted for publication from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2018

The output must have been deposited in an institutional repository as soon after the point of acceptance as possible, and no later than three months after the date of publication

2. Outputs accepted for publication from 1 April 2018 to 31 December 2020

The output must have been deposited as soon after the point of acceptance as possible, and no later than three months after this date.

Outputs which do not comply with the policy will not be eligible for submission in REF 2021.



1. Date of acceptance

The date of acceptance means the date given in the acceptance letter or email from the publisher to the author as the ‘firm’ accepted date. 

2. Author’s accepted manuscript

The version of the output that should be deposited is the author’s accepted manuscript. The author’s accepted manuscript is the final peer-reviewed text which may otherwise be known as the ‘author manuscript’ or ‘final author version’ or ‘post-print.”

3. Date of publication

Date of publication means the date that the final ‘version of record’ is first made publicly available (such as on the publisher’s website).  This will usually mean that the ‘early online’ date, rather than the print publication date, should be taken as the date of publication. 


How to comply

To comply with the REF 2021 Open Access policy, always upload the author-accepted version of your publication or conference proceedings to the University of Cambridge institutional repository, Apollo, as follows:

A. Login to your account (using your Raven password) on Symplectic Elements at:

B. Select Accepted for Publication? (in red at top right of screen) and follow the directions.

C. Note that the policy allows authors to respect embargo periods set by publishers of up to 12 months.  The output should be deposited as a ‘closed’ deposit which then becomes available to read and download after the embargo period has elapsed. 


Exceptions/Other ways to comply

It is always best policy to upload your journal article or conference proceedings as required.  However, if this has not been done, the main exceptions and other routes to compliance are listed below. This list is not exhaustive, so please contact the University Open Access office if you are unsure whether your publication meets the REF 2021 Open Access requirements:

  • Your article was uploaded by a co-author in their own HEI’s Open Access repository.

  • Your article was published while you were at a different UK HEI (in which case the submitting HEI does not need to demonstrate compliance).

  • A pre-print version of your article which is the same as the author-accepted manuscript was available on a pre-print service (such as arXiv) and the output upload date of the pre-print was prior to the date of output publication. (It is advisable to label the file uploaded with ‘accepted version’ or ‘accepted manuscript’. Note that upload must be prior to publication and there is no three-month allowance.)

  • The output was ‘gold’ open access at the point of first publication in accordance with other funders’ requirements and definitions (the HEI will need to confirm that the output was available immediately after publication via the gold route).

  • The output was not deposited within three months of acceptance, but was deposited within three months of the earliest date of publication.

Please always upload your manuscript to Apollo, even if you believe an exception applies.


Further information

The Open Access team handles all Open Access queries. Their contact email is, and their website is

For complete information about the REF 2021 policy on Open Access, you may download the REF 2021 Guidance on submissions (REF 2019/01 January 2019) from the REF website at


Open Research at the University

The University of Cambridge Open Research Position Statement summarises the University’s approach to Open Research. It sets out key principles for the conduct and support of Open Research at the University. The Statement can be found here: