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REF director apologises for trade book open-access confusion

Image: UKRI

Rebecca Fairbairn says “over-editing” to blame for consultation error

The director of the Research Excellence Framework has apologised after a consultation document suggested that trade books submitted to the exercise would need to be made available on an open-access repository.

Researchers had expressed concern that the REF open-access consultation launched on 18 March indicated there was a requirement for monographs to be made freely available within two years of being published.

There was outcry online, with University of Portsmouth history professor David Andress among those concerned. He said it meant academics would have to give away books as well as articles if participating in REF 2029. An exception for monographs was in place for the previous iterations of the exercise.

REF director Rebecca Fairbairn has now apologised after, following the concern, the REF team confirmed it had updated its website and open-access consultation to state that trade books are “out of scope” for the 2029 open-access policy.

“In the interest of keeping the documentation brief to ease engagement with the consultation documents, I’m afraid we over-edited and the point that trade books were not in scope was lost. I apologise for the confusion this caused,” Fairbairn told Research Professional News.

The consultation page has now had a clarification relating to trade monographs added. “Trade books are generally excluded from open-access requirements…This exemption will also be applied for any requirement for REF 2029,” it states.