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Updates from Europe PMC, a global database of life sciences literature

Europe PMC team

 | 16 May 2018


Europe PMC and the Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF 2021)

Several questions have come into our Helpdesk regarding how articles deposited in Europe PMC count towards the REF 2021. We thought it is worth clarifying a few of the questions that have been raised.

Does content deposited in Europe PMC count towards REF 2021?
The answer is definitely yes.

The REF 2021 policy states that:
1) To be eligible for submission to the REF 2021, authors’ final peer-reviewed manuscripts must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository.
2) Deposited material should be discoverable, and free to read and download, for anyone with an internet connection.

Europe PMC is a subject repository for the life sciences and is open to all to read and reuse. Depositing content in Europe PMC not only satisfies REF 2021 but also the policies of the 29 Europe PMC funders.
The original REF Open Access policy stated that outputs should be deposited as soon after the point of acceptance as possible, and no later than three months after this date. From 1 April 2018, the REF 2021 Open Access policy introduced an exception. The exception states that after 1 April 2018, research outputs are now acceptable for the REF when they are deposited within three months of the earliest publication date (rather than acceptance date). So how do articles in Europe PMC comply with this policy?
Accepted Manuscripts Submitted to Europe PMC
Any manuscript funded by any one of the 29 Europe PMC funders can be deposited via the Europe PMC plus manuscript submission system at any point after acceptance or publication. Furthermore, the deposit date and citation information for articles submitted to Europe PMC plus can be found in this CSV file (the file is updated monthly and is available from the Bulk Downloads page). The “first published” date for any article in Europe PMC, including all of PubMed articles, can be found by exporting the article citation in abstract XML format. Or if exporting multiple citations, use the CSV export format. Further guidance on exporting citations can be found in the Help page. The “first published date” field is also available in the Advanced Search form:

Therefore, with the 1 April 2018 exception, Europe PMC can provide the required dates to demonstrate that submitted manuscripts are REF compliant. We also plan to include optional fields for submitters to include acceptance and/or publication dates in our new manuscript submission system Europe PMC plus, as well as introducing processes that will make all these dates publicly available.
Gold Open Access Articles
The vast majority of full text content in Europe PMC is deposited by publishers, many of whom archive either full gold OA or hybrid gold OA articles with us. Journals that work with us can be browsed on the Europe PMC journals list. For example, all the PLOS journals deposit gold OA articles immediately on publication, as shown in the screenshot below from the Europe PMC journals list.

At the time of writing, Europe PMC contains about 1.7M articles with a CC-type licence.

Article Availability
Regardless of deposition route, the full text of an article may not be openly available to the public until the publisher’s embargo period has been satisfied (for Europe PMC Funders, this embargo period is a maximum of 6 months after the publication date, but it may be longer e.g. 12 months for other funders or organisations). If an article is deposited in Europe PMC via the manuscript submission system prior to this date, it is held privately until the embargo date is reached. It is up to the submitting author to provide this information in the manuscript submission form.
Working with Institutional Repositories
Europe PMC strongly supports the idea that authors should only have to deposit once to comply with funder, REF 2021 and any institutional requirement: making compliance as simple as possible will increase the efficacy of open access policies and therefore make more content freely available for others to discover, read and reuse.
To support this ideal, Europe PMC supplies content to JISC’s publications router via its open APIs, which enables articles and metadata in Europe PMC to be pushed to university repositories, as appropriate. Europe PMC is also integrated into Simplectic and Converis CRIS systems, making it easy for authors to claim papers in Europe PMC to their institutional profiles. We have developed straightforward mechanisms (the External Links service) that allow Institutional Repositories to showcase their full text content on the Europe PMC website. Finally, we recently integrated Europe PMC with unpaywall, which provides users of Europe PMC with links to open full text articles, wherever they are located.
We welcome any discussion with institutional repository managers to support their REF 2021 needs.

Updated on 7 February 2020 to clarify the section Accepted Manuscripts Submitted to Europe PMC.

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Partnerships & funding

Europe PMC is a service of the Europe PMC Funders' Group, in partnership with EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI); and in cooperation with the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NCBI/NLM) . It includes content provided to the PubMed Central (NLM/PMC) archive by participating publishers.