Mosaic to close after five years of award-winning long-form journalism

Mosaic, Wellcome’s digital platform dedicated to long-form journalism about science and health, will be closing next week. It will publish its final stories on 10 December. Mark Henderson, Director of Communications, explains why Wellcome has taken this decision.

Illustration showing people climbing over screens with different health-related images

Credit: © Alice Mollon for Mosaic

Mosaic has achieved great things over the past five and a half years.

We’ve published some phenomenal, award-winning journalism – sending writers to locations from Thailand to Togo to explain the most exciting contemporary developments in science and health.

We’re proud to have told stories that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, on topics including post-partum psychosis, compulsive hair-pulling, death and dying, catheters, menopause and male suicide.

And our stories have led to real change. Our piece on Iceland’s radical model to combat teenage drinking, smoking and drug abuse resulted in the research group launching a worldwide collaboration. In March 2019, the Chilean government started a national programme based on their work.

We’ve shown the potential of a ground-breaking open-source publishing model. All Mosaic’s content has been released under a CC-BY Creative Commons licence, so that anyone else can republish it for free. That has allowed over 200 publications to use our work, reaching millions of readers.

We’ve promoted great writing and editing talent. We’ve been proud to publish an extremely diverse set of journalists, to be one of the few science publications to publish more women than men, and to give a platform to many new voices, including Shayla Love, Alex Riley, Josh Sokol and the late Lyra McKee.

We’ll be moving on from a success, which we’ve pursued with much effort, talent and love, and from which we’ve learned a very great deal.

Since we launched Mosaic in 2014, Wellcome’s strategy has evolved considerably. As well as funding thousands of scientists, researchers and public engagement initiatives, we are also now taking a more deliberate approach to health challenges such as drug-resistant infections, mental health, and the impacts of climate change, through targeted priority areas.

As we have followed this more focused path, our communications strategy has changed to support it. A much greater share of Wellcome’s voice and the resources we put towards communications is now devoted to supporting action on these priority issues. 

This was the background for a strategic review of Mosaic, which examined whether and how our digital publication could advance our goals. There were two conclusions. The first was that to thrive in a crowded digital landscape, Mosaic would need more investment than Wellcome has hitherto provided. The second was that we would need to change the commissioning approach radically, so that the subjects it covers match Wellcome’s priority areas.

Over the past few months, we’ve been looking for ways of resolving these challenges. Unfortunately, that has proved too difficult. As Mosaic has always had a free rein to commission content that wasn’t tied to a specific Wellcome viewpoint, we felt that a tight focus on a few issues would change its ethos and character too much. But without a tight focus, we couldn’t justify the extra charitable resources Mosaic would need. It just wasn’t possible to square the circle in the end. After a lot of deliberation, and with some sadness, we’ve thus decided it’s the right time to move on.

We are committed to winding down Mosaic in an orderly and responsible way. We will be honouring all the contracts we have with contributors and other suppliers in full. We’ve also told commissioned writers whose work we will not now be able to publish that they are free to publish it elsewhere. We will keep Mosaic content available as it is now until we identify the right way to archive it, so the work of the past years is not lost.

As we celebrate Mosaic’s accomplishments, I want to thank all the writers, editors, artists, photographers and fact-checkers who made it all possible. And I want to pay particular tribute to the brilliant Wellcome team behind it. Chrissie Giles, Rob Reddick,Giles Newton, Mun-Keat Looi, Peta Bell, Charlie Hall, Michael Regnier, Tom Freeman and many more. We couldn’t have done it without you. 

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