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When you choose to publish with PLOS, your research makes an impact. Make your work accessible to all, without restrictions, and accelerate scientific discovery with options like preprints and published peer review that make your work more Open.

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Does your article qualify for UK REF 2021?

The REF’s new Open Access requirement 

Every five or six years, UK academic researchers submit their most impactful research for expert review and evaluation by the four higher education funding bodies in a process known as the Research Excellence Framework (REF). The results of this quality assessment inform funding allocations for the next cycle and can impact university reputations. For 2021, the REF has introduced a new Open Access (OA) policy for research published after 1 April 2016. The good news is, ALL PLOS journals meet the standards laid out in the new REF guidelines.


“The four UK HE funding bodies believe that the outputs of publicly funded research should be freely accessible and widely available. Open access research brings benefits to researchers, students, institutions, governments, public bodies, professionals and practitioners, citizen scientists and many others.” 

— REF 2021: Overview of Open Access policy & guidance

Why Open matters

Open Access lets you maximise the impact or your research by making it available for anyone, anywhere in the world to find, read and reuse. With immediate and unrestricted access to the latest research, we can accelerate discovery and create a more equitable system of knowledge that is open to all. That means connecting with interdisciplinary researchers in other fields as well as peers in your community, and providing teachers, students, funders, and policymakers equal access to the latest research findings.


 At the most basic level, our research is funded by the UK taxpayer, so it’s vital that it isn’t hidden behind a paywall. But I think it goes deeper than that – we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants and learning from what others have done before us. To deny that knowledge to anyone else would be wrong in many ways, but at the most simple level it would result in more time and money spent on research that has already been done.”

— Harriet GliddonPLOS ONE AuthorDepartment of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland and London Centre for Nanotechnology, University College London, London, United Kingdom

The UK REF OA guidelines in a nutshell

To qualify for the UK REF under the new OA policy, research articles must meet three requirements:

  • Discovery Requirement: Published or deposited in a form that allows anyone with internet access to search electronically within the text
  • Deposit Requirement: Published in a journal or deposited in a repository under a CC BY-NC-ND or less restrictive licence
  • Access Requirement: Published Open Access or deposited in a qualifying repository within three months of publication

Unsure if your journal or repository qualifies? Consult the Sherpa REF database


Fully Open – beyond minimum compliance

We tick all the boxes. PLOS articles are CC BY, embargo-free, fully machine readable, and automatically archived in PubMed, Medline, Scopus, Web of Science, EMBASE, and other databases-so you can focus on your science and leave the publication details to us. As a fully OA publisher, PLOS also complies with the stricter OA requirements of funders like Wellcome and Gates. And with individualised article metrics, you can track the impact of your research in real time across HTML views, pdf downloads, citations, and even social media.

Submit your latest research in preprint form

Each element submitted to the REF is rated on a 5-point scale between 4 (world-leading) and 0 (below standard) on the basis of originality, significance and rigour. Researchers demonstrate their accomplishments by submitting their most creative, impactful and technically demanding works. 

In another exciting development, the 2021 REF will consider publicly posted preprints, even if the final article publication date falls outside the 31st December, 2020 cutoff. When you submit to PLOS, you can choose to have your manuscript automatically posted to bioRxiv*, ensuring your work will qualify for the REF regardless of publication date.

*Available from PLOS ONE, PLOS Biology, PLOS Computational Biology, PLOS NTDs, PLOS Pathogens and PLOS Genetics


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