Why we’re launching a new publishing platform

Our new publishing platform, Wellcome Open Research, launches this autumn. Robert Kiley, our Head of Digital Services, explains why we’ve taken this bold step.

For over a decade Wellcome has been at the forefront of the open access (OA) and data sharing debates. We believe that to get the most out of our research investment, research outputs must be findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (the FAIR principles).

To support this aim we encourage disruptive innovation in scholarly communication. Until now, supporting eLife is arguably the most visible way we've done this. It can also be seen in the way we fund OA publication costs and in our engagement with ASAPbio.

We believe we can do more to improve the way research is communicated. We can make the process faster and more transparent, and make it easier for researchers to provide information that supports reproducibility. This is why we're developing the Wellcome Open Research publishing platform.

How it works

Using a publishing model developed by F1000Research, Wellcome Open Research will let our grantholders rapidly publish all outputs from their research – everything from standard research articles and data sets to case reports, protocols, and null and negative results.

The platform doesn't have an editorial function: every submission is published once it passes a series of objective checks. We hope this will encourage researchers to overcome the 'file drawer problem' and publish negative or non-confirmatory results.

It's hard to estimate the extent of the file drawer problem, but it's significant. A recent study of 221 social science experiments found that two-thirds of null results were simply filed away. By contrast, researchers wrote up 96% of the studies with statistically strong results.

Publishing negative and null results is good for both science and society. It means researchers don't waste time on hypotheses that have already been proved wrong, and clinicians can make treatment decisions with more evidence.

The platform includes a transparent peer review process, which happens after publication. We believe this will encourage constructive feedback from experts focused on helping the authors improve their work, rather than on making an editorial decision to accept or reject an article.

Improving research reproducibility and reliability

Wellcome Open Research requires all supporting data to be made available, allowing other researchers to analyse and replicate published studies. We're working with other organisations, including the Academy of Medical Sciences and the UK Research Councils, to see how we can improve research reproducibility.

We see the development of this platform as a tangible way for us to support the drive to make research more reproducible and reliable. 

Increasing publishing speed

Wellcome Open Research articles will typically be published – with a formal citation and DOI – within a week of submission. This is much quicker than the traditional publishing model, where the average time between submission and acceptance is around 100 days.

Rapid publication, combined with open data sharing, is especially vital as we face public health emergencies such as Zika and Ebola.

The benefits of a new platform

Some of the benefits above would still apply if we encouraged our researchers to use existing platforms, like F1000Research or Copernicus Publications. But creating our own platform has additional advantages:

1. It shows our community how much we value openness and transparency, and we recognise how they can drive scientific progress. We want to help our grantholders try out new approaches so they can adopt these principles.

2. It supports our long-held view that researcher assessment should be based on actual outputs – supported by article-level metrics and transparent comments from referees – rather than using the journal's name as a proxy of quality.

3. We hope the Wellcome name and branding will encourage our researchers to publish on the platform, safe in the knowledge that their outputs will be considered in researcher assessment alongside more traditional outputs.

We hope that other funders will follow our lead. We also hope that, over time, funder-specific platforms will merge into a single international platform that's open to all researchers.

If you’re a researcher with Wellcome funding and want to try a new way of publishing your findings, visit Wellcome Open Research to find out how and when you can submit.