Guidelines on good research practice
We expect all the researchers and organisations we fund to adhere to the highest standards of research practice and integrity.
The following guidelines should be considered alongside our grant conditions.
We may check that researchers and organisations are following these guidelines and policies.
On this page
1. Organisational governance
We expect organisations to have policies, structures and training in place that enable students and researchers to understand and adopt good research practice. Organisations must publish on their external websites how breaches of good research practice and professional disputes will be managed.
2. Research integrity
Wellcome is a signatory to the Concordat to support research integrity. We expect all researchers based in the UK to follow the Concordat. Researchers based outside the UK should follow similar guidelines.
Research misconduct: Anyone who suspects that misconduct has taken place should report it to their organisation. Organisations should tell us as soon as possible about allegations of research misconduct relating to applicants, award holders, Wellcome-funded staff, PhD supervisors and advisory committee members.
Legal and ethical requirements: All research must be carried out in accordance with the relevant legal, health and safety, ethical and regulatory requirements. Researchers must obtain all necessary licences and approvals in the UK and elsewhere and these must be in place throughout the research. Researchers must also consider and manage any health-related findings in research and risks of research misuse (eg biosafety).
Research involving people: Researchers must protect the rights, interests and safety of research participants. All clinical trials must be registered on ClinicalTrials.gov, the ISRCTN registry, or another register listed on the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform. The summary results from clinical trials must be made publicly available within 12 months of the primary study completion date. We support the Clinical Study Data Request consortium and recommend that researchers submit their data to it.
Research involving animals: Research involving animals that is based in the UK must comply with current Home Office legislation. Research outside the UK must at a minimum follow the principles of Home Office legislation.
Researchers should consider replacing, reducing and refining the use of animals in research. This should be done from the earliest stages of research design. We encourage researchers to read Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research [PDF 4.2MB], produced by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).
Researchers applying for our grants must:
- explain why there is no alternative to using animals in the research
- justify the number of animals to be used
- state that the severity level for all procedures is the lowest possible.
We recommend that researchers refer to the Experimental Design Assistant (EDA), a free online tool from the NC3Rs.
Conflicts of interest: Conflicts of interest should be recognised, declared and managed. We have a policy on relationships between Wellcome-funded researchers and commercial organisations. Peer reviewers and committee members should follow the guidance we provide when we appoint them.
3. Research design
Research methodology must be rigorous and well-planned to ensure that results are as robust and unambiguous as possible, and to enable reproducibility of studies.
In scientific research, and where feasible in other areas of research, methodology should include:
- statistical tests to determine adequate power, sample and group size
- a description of how bias in data collection and analysis will be managed.
Whether using animals, tissues or cells, researchers must take care to determine the appropriate controls and replicates in biological studies.
Researchers should maintain accurate records of their methodologies, procedures and the approvals granted during a project. These should be reported clearly in any publications to enable the study to be repeated.
Research records or laboratory notebooks should include clear cross-referencing to electronic data sources.
Organisations should publish standard procedures for signing off and archiving laboratory records and notebooks.
4. Sharing research outputs
We expect all outputs of research funded by us to be shared openly and as quickly as possible. At the same time, we recognise that there may be an overriding need for confidentiality in some instances. For example, if researchers generate intellectual property during a grant, they must consider how to protect it before disclosure and in line with our policy. Read our policy on data, software and materials management and sharing.
Besides publications, patents and pre-prints, other important research outputs may include datasets, technologies, software reagents and policy reports.
Negative findings are as important as positive ones and we encourage you to share them, eg through Wellcome Open Research.
Data generated during a research project should be kept securely in electronic format unless it's not technically possible.
Data and related materials must be stored for at least 10 years after the study ends. If the research is based on clinical samples or findings that relate to public health, it should be stored for 20 years.
Authors must follow our open access policy when they publish outputs in journals, monographs and books.
Authors must have had significant input into the research. This could be through the design, execution or interpretation of the research. They must also accept accountability for the content of the publication.
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors provides guidance on how to determine authorship.
The CASRAI website provides guidance on creditation in publications.
Publications must properly acknowledge the contributions of collaborators and funders.
5. Teaching, training and mentoring
Teaching, training and mentoring are vital to develop the next generation of researchers and entrepreneurs.
Organisations should provide training for researchers in good research practice, eg:
- record keeping
- research design
- regulatory and ethical approvals
- equipment use
- data management
- data protection.
We expect researchers across all career stages to take part in teaching and training. They should also find opportunities to provide mentorship.
Supervisors should support their trainees and staff in all aspects of research. This includes:
- study design and methodology
- data analysis and interpretation
- preparation of papers
- funding applications
- career advice.
6. Promoting a positive research culture
Researchers and organisations should encourage practices that promote a positive research environment so that research can flourish.
- providing support for collaborations
- undertaking and recognising peer review and advisory board activities
- demonstrating commitment to diversity and inclusion.
We consider bullying and harassment of any kind, in any context, to be unacceptable. Our policy sets out what we expect from the organisations we fund and the people involved in our funding.
7. Maximising the impact of research
We want the outputs, knowledge and discoveries that research generates to have as much impact as possible. Researchers should explore ways to do this both within and beyond academic routes. Organisations should have mechanisms in place to enable and reward these activities. Examples are listed below.
Translation: New knowledge and discoveries should be exploited wherever possible, such as through industrial collaboration or translation to the clinic. Read Transforming UK translation [PDF 99KB].
Public engagement: Engaging the public with research increases its impact and broadens understanding.
If researchers decide that their research is suitable for public engagement, they should choose appropriate activities. Read our guide to planning your public engagement.
Using research to inform policy: Some research findings inform decisions made by governments and policy makers. This can lead to changes that improve people's lives.
Researchers should share any findings or expertise that could have an impact on policy. For example, through:
- direct engagement through government representatives
- university groups
- learned societies
These guidelines were updated in April 2018.