REF 2021 decisions on outputs

Earlier this week, the REF 2021 Decisions on staff and outputs was published. This document outlines the decisions made by the funding bodies about some key areas for REF 2021, including staff and outputs. These decisions were made following a period of consultation.

An interesting point in the open access section on page 8, states that there is ‘significant progress’ towards increasing the amount of research available open access in the UK. This is good news!

Then we come to the potentially confusing messages about depositing outputs. The first rule which comes into effect on 1st April 2018, is that outputs should be deposited ‘as soon after the date of acceptance as possible’ and within three months of the acceptance date. However, there is also another rule, called a deposit exception, which will also come into effect on 1st April 2018. This states that outputs which are ‘unable to meet this deposit timescale’ will be eligible if they are deposited within three months of publication. What does the phrase ‘unable to meet’ the depositing deadline actually mean? Do you need to prove that something outwith your control prevented you from depositing your output?

Confused? The thing to remember is that there are still very definite deadlines here. The difficulty for you is in remembering to deposit your output within the deadline because the consequence for failing to do so means your work will not be eligible for REF 2021. You’ve worked hard. Don’t miss the deadline.

To get around the problem of remembering to deposit your work within the deadline, get into the good habit of depositing your work as soon as it’s been accepted for publication. We’ve been promoting this act on acceptance message to all research-active staff at Edinburgh Napier University for two years and it’s a good, easy message to remember and one that ensures your work will be eligible for inclusion in REF 2021.

Reading through this document the recurring theme is ‘transitional’ eg. output portability and REF 2021 and depositing within three months of acceptance or within three months of publication. It feels like we’re being given a ‘heads-up’ that after REF 2021 the eligibility rules will tighten up for the subsequent REF. The smart money is on the funding councils deciding that deposit within three months of acceptance for publication will be the only permitted way to be eligible for the subsequent REF. But we’re getting too far ahead here!

The last word should go to the repository team who work all year round with depositing work through Worktribe. If you have any questions or just want some advice about depositing your work, email the lovely people at