PLS steps up for REF 2021

News - Academic Wednesday, 01 May 2019

Publishers’ Licensing Services to facilitate free electronic access to publications for REF 2021; 200,000 journal articles involved


Publishers’ Licensing Services (PLS) is working in partnership with the UK’s four higher education funding bodies, and publishers, to facilitate secure electronic access to journal articles and other research outputs for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.

The agreement aims to reduce the burden for researchers submitting outputs for assessment and provide assurance that outputs are handled in accordance with copyright. It will also increase efficiency for the REF assessment panels and save public money that would otherwise have been spent on fees.

PLS will facilitate electronic access to up to 200,000 journal articles and other research outputs for assessment by more than 800 panellists across 34 units of assessment in the course of the REF 2021.

The REF, which is managed by Research England on behalf of the UK’s four higher education funding bodies, is the system for assessing the quality of research and is vitally important to the higher education sector. The UK funding bodies will use the results of periodic REF exercises to inform allocation of government investment in research worth around £2 billion per year.

PLS will request publishers’ support for the assessment by agreeing to provide electronic access to their publications and to waive fees, enabling the REF team to overcome the logistical and financial challenges of an assessment on this scale. REF 2021 has the support of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) and the Publishers Association (PA) and of publishers in the UK and abroad.

Additionally, the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) - on behalf of PLS, the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS), the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) and the Picture Industry Collecting Society for Effective Licensing (PICSEL) - is providing a royalty-free licence to allow copyright-compliant storage and reuse of the materials for the purpose of the REF 2021 assessment.

The approach will build on REF 2014, which saw PLS obtaining the support of over 400 publishers worldwide, representing about 98% of all publishers approached, which enabled more than 97% of journal articles submitted to be accessed in this way.

Sarah Faulder, chief executive of PLS, said: "I am pleased that PLS has once again been invited to broker access to and use of published outputs for the purpose of REF 2021. This is a very important exercise to which publishers are committed, as our past experience has shown."

Steven Hill, director of research at Research England, and chair of the REF 2021 Steering Group, said: "I am very grateful for publishers’ support for the REF process through this agreement. This is a welcome and important milestone in the process towards REF 2021. The agreement with PLS will enable the REF team to provide REF panel members with easy and seamless access to the outputs submitted for assessment."

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the UK-wide system for assessing the quality of research in Higher Education Institutions, first undertaken in 2014. It is managed by Research England on behalf of the UK’s four higher education funding bodies: the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council, the Department for Education (Northern Ireland) and Research England.


Pictured: Sarah Faulder, chief executive of PLS

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