Open research

We want the research we fund to be open and accessible, so it can have the greatest possible impact. 

Our position

Transforming human health will take longer if research outputs – like publications, data, software and biological materials – aren’t managed, shared and used in ways that realise 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.

We explain what open research is and why we support it.

In recent years, the research community has made significant progress. But there are still 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 the 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.

Changes to our open access policy

In November 2018, following a six-month review, we announced that we're updating our open access policy to align with Plan S. The changes will apply from 1 January 2021. Read:

We also:

Find out why we think no research should be behind a paywall.

Data, software and material sharing

There are many challenges around 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.

Our policy and guidance on data, software and materials management and sharing sets out what we expect of our researchers.

We're running a pilot with Springer Nature which offers our researchers expert support to manage and share datasets associated with publications. 

Clinical trials data 

Clinical trials data is a valuable resource for researchers, who can use it to advance medical science by building on previous findings and exploring new questions. 

We support the sharing of this data in several ways.

Incentives for researchers 

Researchers who lead the way in making their research open aren’t always given the recognition or incentives for doing so.

To help improve this:

  • in 2016, we ran a survey with our researchers to find out how they practice open research and what barriers they face
  • we ran the Open Science Prize in partnership with the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, to kickstart new products and services that harness the power of open data
  • we want to empower researchers and other innovators to pilot and evaluate new approaches to openness through our funding opportunities (see Funding opportunities section below).

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.

For example, we have:

Funding opportunities

We offer a number of funding opportunities to support open research.

These include:

  • 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 the scheme is open to applications 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 the scheme is open to applications 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 openresearch@wellcome.ac.uk.

Current commissioned work

Transparent communication of open access publishing services and prices

We've appointed Information Power to develop a framework that will help make the nature and prices of open access publishing services more transparent. This will enable conversations and comparisons that will build confidence among customers that prices are fair. This work began in September 2019 and will be completed by December 2019.

You can find out more on the Information Power website.

FAIRware: a software tool to assess the FAIRness of research outputs

We're currently looking at the scope to develop a software tool that can assess whether research outputs produced by Wellcome-funded researchers are FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable).

We expect the project will involve the development of a:

  • checklist of FAIR requirements for each output type
  • software tool capable of reliably assessing the extent to which each output type meets the FAIR requirements.

We're currently reviewing the responses we received to an initial request for information [PDF 422KB], and will provide an update soon.  

Contact us

More information

A full list of our published reports and data sets can be accessed on Figshare. Below are links to several key resources.