We want the research we fund to be open and accessible, so it can have the greatest possible impact.
On this page
Transforming human health will take longer if research outputs – like publications, data, software and biological materials such as cell lines – aren’t managed, shared and used in ways that unleash their full value.
We’ve been leading efforts to make research more open for over 20 years, ever since we worked to make sure the results of the Human Genome Project were released immediately into the public domain.
Our short animation explains what open research is, and why we support it.
In recent years, the research community has made significant progress. Around 80% of all Wellcome-funded research publications are now openly available. And resources like the Protein Data Bank and the European Nucleotide Archive have become the main way for data about protein structures and DNA sequences to be shared.
But there are still significant challenges. For example, many researchers are concerned that the time and effort taken to share outputs puts them at a competitive disadvantage, without bringing enough benefits. Addressing challenges like this is at heart of our work.
What we’re doing
Open access to publications
We were the first research funder to introduce a mandatory open access policy: all journal articles, book chapters and monographs that present the findings of the research we fund must be made freely available. Since then, more than 150 global research funders have followed our lead.
In November 2018, following a six-month review, we announced that we're updating our open access policy. The changes will apply from 1 January 2020. Read:
- the open access policy 2020 [PDF 150KB]
- our explainer to find out what will be different and why
- our frequently asked questions [PDF 276KB]. We’ll publish further guidance before the policy takes effect.
- provide funding to cover our researchers’ open access publishing costs.
- work in partnership with other funders to support Europe PMC (PubMed Central) – an online database offering free access to published biomedical research.
- have developed Wellcome Open Research and support eLife – platforms which allow our researchers to quickly publish and share their findings in a fast, open and transparent way
- allow researchers to cite preprints in their grant applications.
Data, software and material sharing
There are many challenges in sharing research outputs, from how best to use confidential patient data in research, to how to share data when under the pressure of a public health emergency like Ebola or Zika.
Our open research team works with other teams across Wellcome and with partners to address these challenges.
We’ve also commissioned reviews on how to improve:
- data infrastructures [PDF 531KB]
- data standards [PDF 288KB]
- training and skills [PDF 365KB]
- global research equity [PDF 338KB].
Clinical trials data
Clinical trials data is a valuable resource for researchers, to advance medical science by building on previous findings and exploring new questions.
We support the sharing of this data in several ways.
- We have a clinical trials policy, which requires every clinical trial we fund to be registered and for our researchers to adopt good practice in reporting their findings.
- We've joined ClinicalStudyDataRequest.com, a data sharing initiative involving academic research funders and pharmaceutical companies. Find out what it means for researchers and watch a webinar to get answers to some frequently asked questions.
- We run the Ebola Virus Disease Clinical Trial Data Access Committee secretariat.
- We commissioned Technopolis to study the types of clinical research that use data from trials. Read the final report [PDF 4.3MB] and summary [PDF 99KB].
Incentives for researchers
Researchers who lead the way in making their research open aren’t always given the recognition or incentives for doing so.
We ran a survey with our researchers to find out:
- what they think about open research
- how they practice open research
- what barriers they face.
We want to empower researchers and other innovators to pilot and evaluate new approaches to openness.
For example, we:
- commissioned a review to explore how incentives can encourage open research [PDF 271KB]
- launched the Open Science Prize, to kickstart new products and services that harness the power of open data.
We also recognise that funding processes traditionally emphasise journal articles, rather than other research outputs, such as datasets and software.
We’re exploring ways to address this, along with other funders who have similar concerns.
We offer a number of funding opportunities to support open research.
- Research Enrichment – Open Research funding for Wellcome grantholders to make their research more open, accessible and reusable. Awards can be up to £50,000 and applications are open all year round.
- the Open Research Fund to support individuals and teams anywhere in the world to carry out groundbreaking experiments in open research. Awards can be up to £50,000 and applications are open once a year.
- the Wellcome Data Re-use Prizes to stimulate and celebrate the innovative re-use of research data. Winners receive a prize of £15,000 and the opportunity to publish their entry in Wellcome Open Research. Prizes run once or twice a year.
- small amounts of funding to help researchers and organisations host meetings, workshops and events related to open research.
For more information, please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current commissioned work
Helping learned societies transition to Plan S
We have appointed Information Power to explore a range of potential business models [PDF 1MB] which could help learned societies move to a Plan S-compliant publishing model. This work is in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP).
The work began in February 2019 and will be completed by summer 2019.
Request for information
FAIRware - a software tool to assess the FAIRness of research outputs
We are exploring the scope to develop a software tool capable of assessing whether the research outputs produced by Wellcome-funded researchers are FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable).
It should cover (but is not limited to):
- research articles
- monographs and book chapters
We expect the project will involve the development of:
- a structured checklist of FAIR requirements for each output type
- a software tool capable of reliably assessing the extent to which each output type meets the FAIR requirements.
At this stage, we are seeking the views of potential suppliers and other informed parties on:
- the feasibility of this procurement
- the approaches that could be taken to meet the brief.
We have identified a series of questions on which we would welcome input.
If you would like to submit your views:
- read the request for information [PDF 422KB]
- send your responses to Adam Dinsmore at email@example.com.
The deadline for input is 17:00 GMT on Thursday 28 February 2019.
- Robert Kiley, Head of Open Research
- David Carr, Programme Manager
- Hannah Hope, Open Research Co-ordinator
- Diego Baptista, Open Research Coordinator
- Aki MacFarlane, Programme Officer
- Adam Dinsmore, Programme Officer
- Georgina Humphreys, Clinical Data Sharing Officer
A full list of our published reports and data sets can be accessed on Figshare. Below are links to several key resources.
- For more about open access to publications, see
- Bjork’s and Solomon’s study on Developing an effective market for open access article processing charges [PDF 1.1MB]
- Scholarly communication and peer review [PDF 487KB], a report we commissioned to look at the future of research paper peer review.
- Read a case study about the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN), a pioneering data sharing platform.
- The AllTrials campaign is calling for all past and present clinical trials to be registered.
If you have any questions, contact the team
Policies and guidance
Sharing data helps researchers to access and build on new information and knowledge.
Science policy affects a broad range of issues, ranging from data sharing and gene editing, to intellectual property and regulation.
Open access ensures that original research publications are available to everyone to read and re-use for free.