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Some of our researchers have been asking about how our Open Access system will be used for reporting compliance for the next 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 our 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 the REF in 2021 is (broadly) the same shape 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. 

Once we have that pool, we’ll work with the Research Office to establish which researchers authored each paper. To do this we use 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 author’s surname and a Cambridge address. Elements indexes all that data, taking records from each data source which satisfies the conditions, and asks you as academics to approve the publications Elements thinks are yours. 

The UoAs use Symplectic to identify which papers they would like to be submitted to the REF. It is the intersection between the set that satisfies the OA requirements and the set of publications authored by academics identified on Elements that would be REF submit-able under the old rules. Identifying the set via Elements is something that the Research Office work with departments to achieve, and this will develop further as we get closer to REF.

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