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 – 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.
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.
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 2021. Read:
- the open access policy 2021 [PDF 158KB]
- our explainer to find out what will be different and why
- our frequently asked questions [PDF 282KB] – we’ll publish further guidance before the policy takes effect
- how we are addressing four key concerns about open access and Plan S.
- 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
- 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 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.
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.
- 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. See our clinical trial policy monitoring 2018-2019.
- 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 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.
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:
- joined forces with a consortium of partner organisations to support the implementation of the San Franscisco Declaration on Research Assessment
- worked with the Open Research Funders Group to develop a blueprint that funders can use to incentivise and facilitate open research.
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 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 email@example.com.
Current commissioned work
Helping learned societies transition to Plan S
We've 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 and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP).
The work began in February 2019 and will be completed by summer 2019.
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.
- 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.
- In 2016, we commissioned a series of reviews on key challenges for open research:
- 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.