Open Access

Funder and REF Requirements for Open Access

Discover what researchers need to do in order to comply with funders' Open Access policies


What do funders want?

Encouraging impactful research is a key objective for funding bodies, as it means that they are getting value for money while also accelerating development in the sectors and disciplines of interest to them. As described in our guide on the basics of Open Access, being open can help to maximise the impact of research in various ways. Open Access has therefore become an increasingly important issue for many funders across the world.

In general, funders prefer research outputs to be as open as possible, as soon as possible. The Open Access policies of different funding bodies may vary in the specific details - for example, different output types may be affected, different open licences may be preferred, or different timescales may be involved.

In the rest of this guide, you will find a summary of the requirements for several key funding bodies for UK researchers. The details below include references to "Green" and "Gold" routes to Open Access, which are further described in our guide on the basics of Open Access. The details below also include references to open licences, which are explained in our Open Licensing guide. If you have any questions, please get in touch with the publications team at publications@rgu.ac.uk.


REF2021 Requirements

What is REF2021?

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a national audit of the quality of research produced at institutions in the UK. As well as being a way of comparing research quality across universities, the results of the REF directly feed into the amount of money allocated to institutions by national bodies such as Research England and the Scottish Funding Council. More information is available on the REF2021 website.

Outputs Affected

The REF2021 policy affects journal articles and conference papers published with an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), which were accepted for publication from the 1st April 2016 onwards.

Route Preferred

No preference is given in the policy, so both Gold and Green routes can be compliant.

Gold Requirements

In order to comply with the policy through the Gold route, the output must have been made open access on the publisher's website immediately from the date of publication. No specific licence is stated in the policy, but it can be inferred that a Creative Commons CC BY licence would be anticipated.

Help with APCs

No financial support is offered to support the Gold route, so we recommend complying via the Green route.

Green Requirements

The accepted manuscript must be deposited in a repository no later than three months from the date of acceptance (or three months from the date of publication, if the output was accepted between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2018).

Any publisher-imposed embargo cannot exceed 12 months for outputs submitted to Panels A and B (i.e. health, medicine, engineering and technology), or 24 months for outputs submitted to Panels C and D (i.e. social sciences, design and art).

The full-text file does not need to be made available under a specific licence, but it must enable certain kinds of reuse as a minimum. A Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND licence meets the minimum requirements.

Some exceptions are available to help address certain cases where Green Open Access requirements cannot be met.

Other Requirements

The full-text file used for the purposes of Open Access must be machine-searchable (i.e. not a flat image scan).

Full Policy

The full policy details can be found in the REF latest guidance on submissions.


UKRI Requirements

What is UKRI?

United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) is a group of national research councils, including the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). UKRI represents a significant proportion of UK public funding for research. Further information is available on the UKRI website.

Outputs Affected

The UKRI policy affects journal articles and published conference papers, which were submitted for publication from the 1st April 2013 onwards.

Route Preferred

The Gold route is preferred, but it is also possible to comply with the policy through the Green route.

Gold Requirements

In order to comply with the policy through the Gold route, the output must be available on the publisher's website under a Creative Commons CC BY licence.

Additionally, if funded by the MRC, the published version must also be deposited on Europe PMC within six months of the date of publication.

Help with APCs

RGU does not receive any of the UKRI Open Access block grant, so there is no financial support available to support the Gold route. We therefore recommend complying via the Green route.

Green Requirements

The accepted manuscript must be deposited in a repository no later than the end date of any publisher-imposed embargo.

Any embargo cannot exceed 6 months if funded by MRC; for other councils, the embargo cannot exceed 12 months, or 24 months if arts, humanities or social sciences. (Note that the maximum permitted embargo length would be halved if RGU were to receive any of the UKRI Open Access block grant.)

The full-text file must be made available under an open licence that does not restrict non-commercial reuse. This means that a Creative Commons CC BY-NC licence is compliant, but a CC BY-NC-ND licence is not compliant. Since Elsevier journals mandate the use of the CC BY-NC-ND licence, this means that it is not possible to comply with UKRI requirements through the Green route when publishing in an Elsevier journal.

Additionally, if funded by the MRC, the accepted version must also be deposited on Europe PMC within six months of the date of publication.

Other Requirements

Outputs must explicitly acknowledge UKRI funding and must also include a statement regarding where to access the underlying data.

Full Policy

The full policy details can be found in the UKRI's latest version of the policy and associated FAQs.


EU Horizon 2020 Requirements

What is EU Horizon 2020?

Horizon 2020 is the eighth European framework programme for research and investment, involving a very large amount of funding for projects between 2014 and 2020. The ninth framework programme (Horizon Europe) is currently in development and will cover projects between 2021 and 2027. Further information on both Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe is available on the Horizon 2020 website. The Open Access requirements detailed below are those for the current programme, so they may change once Horizon Europe becomes active.

Outputs Affected

The Horizon 2020 policy is mandatory for journal articles only, but encouraged for all other types of output.

Route Preferred

No preference is given in the policy, so both Gold and Green routes can be compliant.

Gold Requirements

In order to comply with the policy through the Gold route, the output must be available on the publisher's website under any Creative Commons licence. Authors should retain copyright rather than transferring it to the publisher.

Additionally, the accepted manuscript must be deposited in a repository (like for the Green route), no later than the date of publication.

Help with APCs

Gold Open Access costs will be reimbursed by the funder, unless the cost is incurred after the project has ended.

Green Requirements

The accepted manuscript must be deposited in a repository no later than the date of publication.

Any publisher-imposed embargo cannot exceed 6 months, or 12 months if arts, humanities or social sciences.

The full-text file must be made available under as open a licence as possible, with Creative Commons licences preferred. However, no specific licence is required.

Other Requirements

When a journal article is published, it is strongly encouraged that the underlying data also be deposited in a repository.

Additionally, all outputs must explicitly acknowledge EU Horizon 2020 funding using specific metadata, including "European Union (EU)", "Horizon 2020", the name of the action, the acronym and the grant number.

Additionally, UK Research and Innovation require that any outputs from EU Horizon 2020 projects are added to the UKRI portal for Horizon 2020 research. More information on this requirement is available from the UKRI website.

Full Policy

The full policy details can be found in the EU Horizon 2020 official guidelines.


COAF Requirements

What is COAF?

The Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) is a joint initiative by six UK-based health charities, including Blood Cancer UK, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Parkinson's UK, Versus Arthritis and the Wellcome Trust. More information on COAF is available on the Wellcome Trust website. The details summarised below attempt to consolidate the requirements of all six charities, as they are very similar. However, you should check the full policy of your specific funder using the links below to see whether there are any minor details that are not included here.

Outputs Affected

All charity policies require journal articles to be open access.

Additionally, the Wellcome Trust also requires book chapters and monographs to be open access.

Route Preferred

The Gold route is preferred, but it is also possible to comply with the policy through the Green route.

Gold Requirements

In order to comply with the policy through the Gold route, the output must be available on the publisher's website under a Creative Commons CC BY licence. The publisher should have signed up to the Wellcome Trust's requirements for publishers, regardless of which charity is involved.

Additionally, the version of record must be deposited in Europe PMC no later than 6 months from the date of publication.

Help with APCs

RGU does not receive any of the COAF block grant, so there is no financial support immediately available to support the Gold route. However, five of the six charities (excluding Cancer Research UK) are willing to discuss the payment of APCs with researchers on a case-by-case basis. We therefore recommend contacting the funder in the first instance, or otherwise complying via the Green route.

Green Requirements

The accepted manuscript must be deposited in Europe PMC no later than 6 months from the date of publication.

Any publisher-imposed embargo cannot exceed 6 months.

The full-text file must be made available under as open a licence as possible, with a Creative Commons CC BY licence preferred.

Other Requirements

In addition to depositing on Europe PMC for both Green and Gold routes, researchers are strongly encouraged to deposit on their institutional repository (i.e. OpenAIR for researchers at RGU).

Full Policy

The full policy details can be found on the websites of the charities as via the following links: