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Library Research Support: Open Research: REF 2021 Open Access Exceptions

This guide is intended to provide advice and support on open access research, including guidance around Durham Research Online (DRO), open access publishing, research data management and related topics.

REF Open Access Policy Exceptions

Outputs which fail to meet the Open Access Requirements for REF

All outputs which fall in scope of the REF Open Access policy are expected to meet the requirements of the policy if they are to be eligible for submission to the REF. Each submission:

[PARA 231] "may submit a maximum of five per cent non-compliant in-scope outputs, or one non-compliant in-scope output, whichever is higher."

Outputs submitted above this tolerance limit will be:

"removed as ineligible. An unclassified score will be added for the removed (‘missing’) outputs. Where an audit process demonstrates that outputs identified as compliant do not meet the open access requirements and exceed the tolerated proportion/number, these outputs will be removed, and an unclassified score added for the ‘missing’ outputs."

 

What are "REF Open Access Exceptions"?

Where an author wishes to submit a publication for the REF which:

  1. Is within the scope of the REF Open Access policy, but
  2. Is not compliant with the requirements of the policy

... the policy allows for a number of exceptions to the various requirements that will be allowed.

These exceptions cover circumstances where deposit was not possible, or where open access to deposited material could not be achieved within the policy requirements.

Below we have listed the exceptions allowed for by the REF Open Access policy, how these are required to be evidenced through any audit process, and actions expected of authors and REF leads. 


How do I suggest an exception to the REF OA policy should be applicable?

Guidance on how to add an Open Access Exception to a REF output have been provided by the REF team in Research & Innovation Services, and can be found here.

The authorisation process is as follows:

  • The author or Library Open Access team will identify an exception could or is likely to be applicable.
  • The REF Lead for the Unit of Assessment is provided with information as to the proposed exception through the REF database, and should decide whether its use should be authorised. They can approach the Library Open Access Team for further guidance if required.
  • Once authorised, the exception will be applied to the output and override any non-compliant open access status within the REF database.

REF Open Access Exceptions

Deposit exceptions

The following exceptions deal with cases where the output is unable to meet the deposit requirements. Where one of these exceptions applies, the output will not be required to meet any of the open access criteria, and will be considered beyond the scope of this policy. However, Durham authors are expected to ensure their article is made open access wherever possible, in line with the university’s open access policy.


Exception Evidence Expected Example supporting text from author Who is responsible for identifying 
252a: At the point of acceptance, it was not possible to secure the use of a repository. Descriptive explanation of situation and difficulties encountered required, and where applicable data held as evidencing use of this exception must respect individual’s privacy.

We cannot foresee circumstances in which a Durham author would apply this exception.

See also exceptions 252c (not employed at a UK HEI at time of submission), 254a (not employed at Durham at time of acceptance) or 254b (technical failure prevented deposit)
Durham author of output
252b: There was a delay in securing the final peer-reviewed text (for instance, where a paper has multiple authors). Descriptive explanation of difficulties encountered required, and where applicable data held as evidencing use of this exception must respect individual’s privacy.

The corresponding author of the article ([insert author name], [insert author ORCiD if known]) did not provide me with a copy of the accepted manuscript to deposit in DRO within the required deposit timeframe.

[If applicable:] The corresponding author has ensured that this met the REF OA requirements and the output is available from repository [insert repository name], and was deposited there on [insert date].

Durham author of output
252c: The staff member to whom the output is attributed was not employed on a Category A eligible contract by a UK HEI at the time of submission for publication.

Evidence of submission date if available (e.g. from publisher website).

Evidence that author was not employed by submitting HEI at that point.

This article was originally submitted to the journal on [insert date here]. I was not employed by Durham University at that time, and I confirm I was employed by [insert employer and country] at this time. Durham author of output

Employment dates at Durham are included within the REF database.
252d: It would be unlawful to deposit, or request the deposit of, the output

Reasonable and descriptive explanation of difficulties encountered (where lawful to collect and record).

Note, that this exception cannot be used where a journal’s open access policy prohibits the article form meeting the REF requirements, or where the inclusion of third party copyright prevents access to an output. These are covered by other exceptions.

It would be unlawful to deposit this output because… [insert reasons here]

NOTE: It is unlikely that this exception will apply to the vast majority of journal articles and conference papers, which will be published and in the public domain in any case.

See also exceptions 253b and 253c, where the self-archiving permissions granted to an author by a journal do not meet the requirements of REF OA policy, but this was the most appropriate journal for the article to have been published in.
Durham author of output & REF Admin for the submitting UoA
252e: Depositing the output would present a security risk. Reasonable and descriptive explanation of difficulties encountered (where lawful to collect and record).

Depositing this output would constitute a security risk because… [insert reasons here]

NOTE: It is unlikely that this exception will apply to the vast majority of journal articles and conference papers.

See also exceptions 253b and 253c, where the self-archiving permissions granted to an author to not meet the requirements of REF OA policy but this was the most appropriate journal for the article to have been published in.
Durham author of output & REF Team for the submitting UoA
(No longer a formal 'exception', but will be considered as meeting the REF Open Access requirements): "Outputs that are made open access through the 'Gold route', at the point of first publication ... meet the requirement of the REF 2021 open access policy. HEIs will need to confirm that outputs were available immediately after publication via the gold route."

None.

Durham University still expects authors to meet the requirements of the University Open Access policy, and Research England “strongly encourage these outputs to be deposited in a repository to facilitate preservation, aggregation and text-mining.”
This article was published as ‘gold’ open access and is available from [enter DOI here] The Library can monitor for and applies this exception.

(not a formal 'exception', but relaxes the requirement for deposit for articles accepted during the first two years of the REF OA policy) 

[Applicable only to articles accepted for publication between 1st April 2016 and 1st April 2018]

The article was not deposited within 3 months of the date of acceptance, but was deposited in DRO within 3 months of the date of publication
Not required Not required
No action required – this has already been accounted for in the REF database

255b: [Applicable only to articles accepted for publication after 1st April 2018]

The output was not deposited within three months of acceptance date, but was deposited within three months of the earliest date of publication. In this instance, the outpt will be required to meet all other policy requirements.
We would advise Durham authors to provide a short descriptive explanation as to any situation or difficulties encountered which account for the later deposit of the output.

I was unable to deposit the accepted manuscript prior to the date of publication due to:

(1) an agreed publicity embargo with the publisher.
(2) substantial changes being made to the article following acceptance and peer-review, which I was seeking permission from the publisher to reflect in the manuscript version deposited in the repository.
(3) [insert another reason here]

Durham author of output

 

Access exceptions

The following exceptions deal with cases where deposit of the output is possible, but there are issues to do with meeting the access requirements of the REF Open Access policy.

  1. An Access exception will be required for all non-compliant outputs within the scope of REF Open Access Policy, and for which no deposit exception has been recorded.

In the following cases, the output will still be required to meet the deposit and discovery requirements, but not the access requirements. A closed-access deposit will be required, and the open access requirements should be met as soon as possible, where possible.


Exception Evidence Expected Example supporting text from author Who is responsible for identifying 
253a: The output depends on the reproduction of third party content for which open access rights could not be granted (either within the specified timescales, or at all).
Descriptive explanation of situation and difficulties encountered, where it is not obvious that the output depends on third-party material.
This output contains third party copyright material. Whilst permission was granted to include this within the published version of the article accessible by subscribers only, permission was not granted for deposit in an open access repository. The inclusion of this third party copyrighted material is fundamental to the understanding of the output, and so provision of access to the article as a whole has not been possible.

Durham author of output

Authors are advised to contact the DRO team if they believe this exception may apply.
253b: The publication concerned requires an embargo period that exceeds the stated maxima, and was the most appropriate publication for the output

Short explanation confirming that as the author, this journal was the most appropriate venue for publishing your research.

Author’s are expected to be aware of the requirements of their funder’s and the REF Open Access policy, and to take these into account alongside other factors in deciding where is the most appropriate venue to publish their research.

The choice of where to publish research outputs remains the choice of the author.

Guidance on selecting a journal in your subject area, and information on the open access permissions individual journals might offer, can be sought from the library by contacting the open access team through our open access web pages.

As the author, I was aware of the REF Open Access requirements, but confirm this was the most appropriate journal in which to publish this article. Other options which did meet the REF Open Access policy requirements were considered, but were deemed not to be the most appropriate venue to reach the most appropriate audience for this research.

It would be worth outlining the reasons why the journal was selected.

 

Durham author of output

Authors are advised to contact the DRO team if they are unsure if this exception may apply.

253c: The publication concerned actively disallows openaccess deposit in a repository, and was the most appropriate publication for the output.

Short explanation confirming that as the author, this journal was the most appropriate venue for publishing your research.

Author’s are expected to be aware of the requirements of their funder’s and the REF Open Access policy, and to take these into account alongside other factors in deciding where is the most appropriate venue to publish their research.

The choice of where to publish research outputs remains the choice of the author.

Guidance on selecting a journal in your subject area, and information on the open access permissions individual journals might offer, can be sought from the library by contacting the open access team through our open access web pages.

As the author, I was aware of the REF Open Access requirements, but confirm this was the most appropriate journal in which to publish this article. Other options which did meet the REF Open Access policy requirements were considered, but were deemed not to be the most appropriate venue to reach the most appropriate audience for this research.

It would be worth outlining the reasons why the journal was selected.

Durham author of output

Authors are advised to contact the DRO team if they are unsure if this exception may apply.

 

Technical and Other exceptions

The following exceptions deal with cases where an output is unable to meet the criteria due to a technical issue, or some other reasons which may be permitted for the REF. In the following cases, the output will not be required to meet the requirements of the REF Open Access policy.


Exception Evidence Expected Example supporting text from author Who is responsible for identifying 
254a: At the point of acceptance, the staff member to whom the output is attributed was employed at a different UK HEI, and it has not been possible to determine compliance with the criteria. Evidence that author was not employed by submitting HEI on the date of acceptance. This article was originally accepted by the journal on [insert date here]. I was not employed by Durham University at that time. I was employed at [INSERT INSTITUTION NAME HERE]

Durham author of output

Employment dates will be determined within the REF database.

254b: The repository experienced a short-term or transient technical failure that prevented compliance with the criteria (this should not apply to systemic issues).

Reasonable and descriptive explanation of technical failure.

N/A - If this exception is selected by an author, this will be confirmed against system logs to confirm it matches a period where access was lost for an extended period whihc prevented meeting the REF oa requirements.

 

Durham Library/CIS to evidence

254c: An external service provider failure prevented compliance (for instance, a subject repository did not enable open access at the end of the embargo period, or a subject repository ceased to operate).

Reasonable and descriptive explanation of external service failure.

Please detail what the external service provider is, and why you believe they failed to meet the requirements.

Please contact the library for advice if required.

Durham author of output


Exception Evidence Expected Example supporting text from author Who is responsible for identifying 

255a: 'Other exception' should be used where an output is unable to meet the criteria due to circumstances beyond the control of the HEI, including extenuating personal circumstances of the author (such as periods of extended leave), industrial action, closure days, and software problems beyond those listed in the technical exceptions. If 'other' exception is selected, the outputs will not need to meet the open access criteria (deposit, discovery or access requirements).

PLEASE NOTE: Use of this exception will increase the risk profile of the submission for audit purposes. 

A short written explanation for why the output could not meet the open access requirements at the point of submission to the REF Please provide details to explain why this output did not meet the requirements. If these are related to any personal or private circumstances, please discuss with the REF Team for your assigned Unit of Assessment.

Durham author of output
 

(not a formal 'exception', but for information): Output is a conference proceeding, but not within definition (i.e., it does not have an ISSN, or the proceedings are published as part of book series)

None

N/A 

 

Authors are advised to contact the DRO team if they are unsure if this exception may apply.