Open access publishing | REF eligibility | Funder compliance: Funder|Policy requirements (RCUK, COAF, EU)

Policy mandates:

Keep REF Eligible and Funder compliant

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Understand the policy requirements of HEFCE, RCUK and the other funder's who mandate open access

REF eligibility | Funder compliance

General advice

Many funders' policies require papers to be made Open Access and will assess researcher compliance when considering future funding requests. Detailed below are various funder Open Access policies.

Funders often have slightly different emphases on the best 'route' to open access. Some of them have internal mechanisms for funding gold open access. Some of them require authors to make use of specific subject repositories. It can get very confusing, but it's worth bearing in mind that policies from funder to funder are very similar and often by simply depositing your paper into BURA on acceptance or requesting funds for Gold open access you will be compliant.

... Luckily the research support team is here to help. We have put together a roadmap to open access compliance, which highlights the simple steps you need to take to ensure compliance.

Open Access Roadmap

Follow these steps to ensure REF eligibility and full compliance with your funder's policy

Post-2014 REF - submission requirements

HEFCE and the other three UK funding bodies have published details of a new policy for open access for the Post-2014 REF, expected around 2021. The policy requires that journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN accepted for publication after 1 April 2016 must be made open access by depositing full-text papers into an online repository to be eligible for the post-2014 REF. The policy does not apply to monographs, other long-form publications, creative or non-text outputs, or data. You can find out more details of their policy here.

Qualifying research outputs that do not comply will not be eligible for REF submission.

The Policy Criteria

  • The policy refers to journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN.
  • It comes into effect for outputs accepted for publication after 1st April 2016.
  • Deposit must be of the author’s accepted and final peer reviewed text.
  • Qualifying outputs must have a record created in a repository within 3 months of the date of acceptance - the date when the publisher notifies the author.
  • The author's accepted and final peer reviewed version of the full-text of the paper must be made accessible within 1 month after the record has been created, or after the end of the publisher embargo period if there is one.
  • The maximum embargo periods are 12 months for REF Panels A and B, and 24 months for REF Panels C and D.



Gold compliance route ↓

Green compliance route ↓


There is a deposit exception if an output was published as ‘gold’ open access (for example, RCUK-funded projects where an open access article processing charge has been paid). At Brunel we have a central fund offering Gold open access to all members of academic staff, irrespective of funding affiliations.

Brunel requires compliance with the HEFCE policy via the green route to ensure that all outputs are eligible for submission come the REF. This is in line with the approach taken by other UK HE institutions.

Outputs must be deposited in a repository, such as BURA, at the point of acceptance. Please see instructions on depositing in our BRAD userguide and guidance in our roadmap to ensure compliance.

Both HEFCE and the university strongly recommend that you start depositing immediately into BURA and not wait for the start date of the policy.


Occasionally, it will not be possible for an output to fulfill the criteria. An exception is allowed in the following cases.
  • You were not employed by a UK HEI at the point of acceptance.
  • You did not have use of a repository at time of acceptance.
  • You experienced a delay securing the final peer-reviewed text (e.g. for multi-authored papers).
  • It would be unlawful, or present a security risk, to deposit the output.
  • Output depends on third party content for which open access rights could not be granted.
  • The publication concerned requires an embargo period that exceeds the stated maxima, and was the most appropriate for the output.
  • The publication concerned actively disallows open access deposit, and was the most appropriate for the output.
  • At acceptance, you were at a different UK HEI that failed to comply.
  • A short-term technical failure within the repository prevented compliance.
  • An external service provider failure prevented compliance (e.g. a subject repository ceased to operate).

If your paper does not meet the output requirements for a reason not listed above it will require a short written explanation on why it could not meet the requirements.

Please contact us if your paper falls under one of the above exceptions or requires a written explanation on why it did not meet the requirements.

RCUK funders

This policy applies only to the publication of peer reviewed research articles (including review articles not commissioned by publishers) and conference proceedings that acknowledge funding from the UK’s Research Councils.

Researchers, as the generators of all of the research papers and responsible for much of their peer review, are expected to publish any peer reviewed research papers which acknowledge Research Council funding in journals that are compliant with the RCUK policy on Open Access.  All papers must include details of the funding that supported the research and, if applicable, a statement on how the underlying research materials – such as data, samples or models – can be accessed

The Research Councils UK (RCUK) policy supports both ‘Gold’ and ‘Green’ routes to Open Access, though RCUK has a preference for immediate Open Access with the maximum opportunity for reuse


Gold compliance route ↓

Green compliance route ↓


RCUK recognises a journal as being compliant with this policy through the Gold route if:

The journal provides, via its own website, immediate and unrestricted access to the final published version of the paper, which should be made available using the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence, and allows immediate deposit of the final published version in other repositories without restriction on re‐use.   This may involve payment of an ‘Article Processing Charge’ (APC) to the publisher. 

Authors may request funds to publish via the online form.

You can use the SHERPA/FACT database to check whether your journal offers a compliant publication route, and which route to opt for.

RCUK recognises a journal as being compliant with this policy through the Green route if:

The journal consents to deposit of the final Accepted Manuscript in any repository, without restriction on non‐commercial re‐use and within a defined period.  No APC will be payable to the publisher. 

In this latter case, in STEM disciplines, RCUK will accept a delay of no more than 6-12 months between on‐line publication and the final Accepted Manuscript becoming Open Access.  In the case of papers in the arts, humanities and social sciences (which will mainly be funded by the AHRC and the ESRC), the maximum embargo period will be 12-24 months.

In most cases this can be achieved by depositing your paper into BURA, but MRC, BBSRC and ESRC have specific subject repository requirements. Please check the details here.

You can use the SHERPA/FACT database to check whether your journal offers a compliant publication route, and which route to opt for.

The Charity Open Access Fund (COAF)

The Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) is a partnership medical charity funders to enable free and unrestricted access to the published outputs of the research they support.

COAF will provide single combined block grants to 36 UK research institutions to meet open access article processing charges for peer-reviewed research publications resulting from research funded by one or more of the partner charities. Brunel is not currently a recipient of this block grant. If you are funded by any of the organisations listed below you are advised to contact us directly.

COAF's policy applies to original peer-reviewed research articles, non-commissioned review articles and study protocols, subject to the requirements outlined below.

Please note the Wellcome Trust also requires open access for monographs and book chapters. If this applies to you, please contact us directly.

Funds may not be used for any open access costs associated with commissioned reviews or conference proceedings and so fall outside the scope of their policy.


Gold compliance route ↓

Green compliance route ↓


Where an APC is paid from COAF, the journal must:

(a) deposit, on behalf of the author, the final version of the article - which includes all the changes that arise from the peer-review, copy-editing and proofing processes - in PubMed Central (PMC), where it must be made freely available at the time of publication (a link to the article on the publisher site is not sufficient); and

(b) license the content under a Creative Commons Attribution-only ( CC-BY) licence.

Content deposited in PMC is automatically mirrored to the Europe PMC repository.

You can use the SHERPA/FACT database to check whether your journal offers a compliant publication route, and which route to opt for.

If the journal allows it, you can comply with the open access policies of the partner funders by self-archiving a final author manuscript version of your paper in Europe PMC, as long as it is freely available no longer than six months of the date of publication. If you self-archive, no APC is charged and no call will be made on COAF.

You can use the SHERPA/FACT database to check whether your journal offers a compliant publication route, and which route to opt for.

European Union

Researchers funded by Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7) projects must ensure open access to peer reviewed research articles resulting from funding in certain areas.

Horizon 2020 grant holders must ensure open access to all peer-reviewed publications resulting from funded research.

For FP7 projects the policy applies to these research areas: Energy, Environment, Health, Information and Communication Technologies (Challenge 2: CognitiveSystems, Interaction, Robotics), Research Infrastructures (e-Infrastructures), Science in Society, Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities.

Researchers can comply with EU policy through Green or Gold open access.


Gold compliance route ↓

Green compliance route ↓


Open FP7 projects

Gold open access fees can be charged to project grants

Closed FP7 projects

The EC now provides some open access funding for closed FP7 projects. Researchers publishing in fully open access titles may be eligible to have their Gold open access fees paid

  • Outputs must be published in fully open access titles (e.g. PLOS, BioMed Central)
  • The project must have closed on or after 1 January 2013
  • Fees can also be paid for monographs, book chapters and conference proceedings
  • A maximum of three publications per FP7 project will be funded
  • Funding is capped at €2,000 per publication (€6,000 for monographs) - including VAT, where applicable


Gold open access charges are eligible costs to Horizon 2020 grants. You will need to indicate expected costs in your grant proposal - contact Brunel's Open Access Team for help estimating them. There will be a pilot to pay open access charges after grants have closed.

Before submission, check that your publisher's embargo on open access in a repository is no longer than 6 months (12 for Social Sciences and Humanities), or that there is a Gold open access option.


FP7 / Horizon

Researchers publishing in traditional subscription journals can comply through Green open access, by making their papers available via BURA within 6 months of publication (Energy, Environment, Health, Information and Communication Technologies, Research Infrastructures), or 12 months of publication (Science in Society, Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities)

Links to funder policies

Many other funders have policies that require papers to be made Open Access and will assess researcher compliance when considering future funding requests. Detailed below are various funder Open Access policies.

The links below comes in via a feed from Sherpa Juliet. Sherpa Juliet is a useful tool which summarises all funder policies who have open access or open data requirements. This will cover most of the information you need.

Another feed below comes in from ROARMAP - a registry of open access policies and mandates.

These resources allow you to quickly look up a summation of requirements. If your funder policy is not listed here, please contact us for further advice.


ROAR-Map Feed - UK Research Funders with open access requirements


Page contents

Please note this feed is not exhaustive. Always check your funders' policy at Juliet, ROARMAP or in the terms & conditions of your contract.

Towards the next Research Excellence Framework - Steven Hill (Head of policy at HEFCE)

Open access requirements in Horizon 2020

What Does RCUK's Open Access Policy Mean for Researchers in the UK?


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