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How will the Open Access service be used for REF reporting? 

Some of our researchers have been asking about how our Open Access system will be used for reporting compliance for the REF in 2021. Concerns have specifically been raised about how multi-authored papers will be attributed to all authors if we only require it to be submitted once to our system.

The Open Access service forms part of a larger network of reporting systems that will be used for the REF in 2021. With the REF there are two reporting requirements that need to be satisfied and to a certain extent these operate in conflict with each other: 

1. On the one hand the Open Access service must satisfy immediately the condition that papers are made Open Access in compliance with the REF Open Access policy (this is the motivator behind the “act on acceptance” message). 

2. On the other hand, the University will face at a future date the requirement to know the published (and REF Open Access Policy-compliant) research of its academics for the REF-defined reporting period in order that the research quality in each area of research (Unit of Assessment/UoA) can be assessed.

Our knowledge of who has authored what is not predicated on the publication being in Apollo, the OA repository. Rather, we collect that data separately in Symplectic Elements. The repository, however, is vital for ensuring compliance with Open Access policies.

Assuming that REF in 2021 is (broadly) the same shape next time as in 2014, this will require researchers to use our Open Access service to make sure that any article the University wishes to have in the pool of those to be submitted to the REF, was made Open Access. When we know the reporting period dates and the terms, we will be able to use a list of identifiers to narrow down the pool of those outputs that can be included in the submission. 

The Open Access team will work with the Research Office to establish which researchers have authored each paper in the pool of papers to be sumbitted to the REF. This will be based on the information held in Symplectic Elements. Elements indexes publications at the point they are published, using data sources such as Scopus, arXiv, Web of Science and PubMed. It does so by matching search terms, such as the author’s surname and a Cambridge address. Elements indexes all that data, taking records from each data source which satisfies the conditions. Once this has happened, researchers will be asked by Elements to approve or reject publications that Elements assumes belong to them.

The UoAs use Symplectic Elements to identify which papers they would like to be submitted to the REF. It is the intersection between the papers identified by the UoAs and the papers that satisfy the REF Open Access requirements that the Research Office works with departments to achieve, and this will develop further as we get closer to REF.