Learned Society Curation Awards (Closed)

These awards support learned society publishers who want to explore new ways of signalling the significance of published research outputs in an open and transparent manner.

The scheme is an initiative between the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Wellcome.

Scheme at a glance 

This scheme is now closed

Administering organisation location:
Anywhere in the world (apart from mainland China)
Funding amount:
Up to £200,000
Funding duration:
Up to three years

Who can apply

You can apply for a Learned Society Curation Award if you want to explore new ways of signalling the significance of published research outputs in an open and transparent manner.

You must be based at a learned society that promotes an academic profession, discipline or a group of related disciplines relevant to the work funded by Wellcome and/or the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Applicants can be based anywhere in the world apart from mainland China.

Your proposal

Learned societies are at the centre of academic publishing. We’re looking for societies who want to:

  • rethink the role they can play to improve scholarly communications
  • explore how they can move from the role of publisher to that of curator
  • provide value-added services that could facilitate research assessment.

We don't want to be prescriptive with this funding – you should come to us with your ideas. But we particularly welcome proposals that do one or both of the following:

  • Make peer review reports more useful to the research community. 
    Publishing is an iterative process in which authors share their work, and the scientific community improves and evaluates that work through peer review and curation. The traditional publishing system keeps much of this process hidden from view. This means that the scientific community has to rely on venue of publication and related metrics as proxies for interest, impact and quality.

    The digital environment offers new opportunities to improve the evaluation process. It can make the process more transparent and multifaceted (unlike a binary decision to publish or reject a paper).

    Publishing peer review reports is a useful first step, but we're looking for proposals that go beyond this.

    Examples might include:
    • developing a nomenclature to show the impact of the research
    • developing a series of badges to indicate openness or reproducibility
    • finding a way to distil peer review reports into a series of short statements that could be useful to funders and hiring/promotion/tenure committees.
  • Develop overlay/curation journals.
    You could use the expertise of your learned society to identify the most impactful articles published elsewhere, such as preprints. This could be done by publishing an editorial review to highlight why that paper has been selected for special consideration.

    You could also use part of the funding to move to an open publishing platform (such as Wellcome Open Research) from which you could select content for your overlay/curation journal.

Who can't apply

You can't apply to carry out activities that involve the transfer of grant funds into mainland China.

What's expected of your host organisation

The learned society (or its parent organisation) should be a not-for-profit organisation that is registered as a charity or a 501(c)(3) organisation, or equivalent. If you are unsure if this is the case, please contact us.

The learned society must be able to administer the grant and make sure that it is only used for the proposed activities outlined in the proposal.

The learned society must also be able to accept our standard grant conditions. Wellcome won't apply its standard intellectual property conditions relating to consent to revenue sharing and commercialisation. Instead, grantholders must publish a short summary report of their activities on an open access basis. Where possible, we expect grantholders to make any software developed as part of this grant available under an open source licence.

If you're applying from a learned society that has an active journal publishing operation, it must have:

  • Published research articles funded by Wellcome or published by investigators or group leaders of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute within the past two years.
  • Direct control over their publishing operations to ensure they can implement their proposal. Learned society publishers whose publishing operations are provided by a third party (such as a commercial publisher) can still apply for funding. These applications must include a statement of commitment from the third-party publisher, guaranteeing they will implement the proposal if it is successful.
  • A Plan S-compliant publishing option.

If this applies to you, these details must be confirmed in a letter of support and uploaded to your application.

You can ask for funding of up to £200,000 for up to three years.

Funds can be used for a range of costs such as:

  • You can ask for salary support to cover the time you spend on this project.

    You can ask for staff costs if:

    • they don't already have a salary for the period of your grant, and
    • they're essential to your proposal.

    Staff may include data managers or IT staff.

  • We will cover costs for you to work with or commission developers to build a new software tool or application.

  • We will cover costs for you to purchase cloud-based storage or software licences etc.

  • You can ask for costs to:

    • communicate your open research plans to potential users and collaborators
    • hold training workshops
    • promote uptake and use to others in your research field and the wider community.
  • You can ask for costs to conduct user-testing, focus groups etc.

  • You can ask for overheads if your grant will be based at a:

    • university outside the UK or Republic of Ireland
    • research organisation that does not receive core funding for overheads
    • charitable or not-for-profit organisation
    • small or medium-sized commercial organisation.

    You can also ask for overheads on any part of your grant that is sub-contracted to any of the organisations listed above.

    If you’re based at a UK university you can’t ask for overheads for sub-contracted activity if your university will include the sub-contracted funding in its annual report to the UK Charity Research Support Fund.

    Overheads can include:

    • estates, for example building and premises
    • non-project dedicated administrative and support staff
    • administration, for example finance, library, and room hire.

    The total cost for overheads should not be more than:

    • 20% of the direct research costs if you’re based in a low- or middle-income country
    • 15% of the direct research costs if you’re based anywhere else.

    These costs must directly support the activity funded by the grant.

    How to apply for these costs

    In your grant application you must:

    • give a full breakdown of costs (you can't ask for a percentage of the research costs)
    • explain why these costs are necessary for your research
    • include a letter from the finance director of your host organisation, or the sub-contracted organisation, confirming that the breakdown is a true representation of the costs incurred.
  • We will pay travel costs for you to:

    • attend relevant training events and conferences
    • visit users and collaborators.

    You can also ask for costs to cover caring responsibilities if you or any staff employed on your grant attend a conference. This includes childcare and any other caring responsibility you have, provided:

    • Wellcome is paying your salary
    • the conference is directly related to your research project
    • the caring costs are over and above what you'd normally pay for care
    • the conference organiser and your employing organisation are unable to cover the costs.

    You can ask for up to £1,000 per person for each conference.

    Carbon offset costs

    This is a new policy. It applies to all types of travel costs Wellcome provides.

    You can ask for:

    • the cost of low carbon travel where practical, even if it's more expensive (for example travelling by train instead of flying)
    • project-related resources or activities that provide an alternative to travel, such as video conferencing, communication and file-sharing software
    • costs to offset the carbon emissions of the journeys you make.

    We won't pay for the core infrastructure that your host organisation should provide, unless outlined in our overheads policy. Examples include:

    • organisation-wide video conferencing packages
    • high-speed broadband
    • HD screens.

    See our carbon offset policy for travel for information on what you and your organisation need to do.

  • contingency costs, as long as these are reasonable and you can justify them
  • VAT on fees where the VAT can't be reclaimed.

What we don’t offer

You can't use this funding for:

  • open access publication costs, or other publication costs, for example colour or page charges
  • maintenance and support for ongoing running costs of an existing database, software tool or other resource.

Stages of application

This scheme is now closed.

  1. Submit your full application

    You must submit your full application through Grant Tracker.

    If you're applying as a team, one member must submit the application on behalf of the team.

    In the ‘Details of proposal’ section, provide the following information in no more than 1500 words:

    • The vision for your proposal, including aims, target audiences, and activities.
    • How your proposal will facilitate research assessment and how the model you develop could be used by others.
    • The feasibility of the proposal (including support from third party publishers as appropriate) and how the activities proposed could be made sustainable in the longer term.
    • How you will monitor and evaluate the success of your proposed activities, including approximate targets.

    You should also include a letter of support from the director or equivalent at your organisation. Please upload this to the 'additional information' section of the application. If you're applying from a learned society that has an active journal publishing operation, the letter of support should also confirm it meets the eligibility criteria for this scheme (see 'What's expected of your host organisation' section on this page).

    By submitting an application, you agree that Wellcome will receive it on a non-confidential basis. Wellcome will have the right to share your application with HHMI staff and the expert review group without the need to obtain any further consents. Wellcome or HHMI can also publish aspects of your application.

  2. Review

    Wellcome, HHMI and an expert review group will assess your application.

  3. Decision

    We aim to give you a decision within 8 weeks of the application deadline. 

    Feedback will be provided to unsuccessful applicants. 

Publishing your application

We'll publish on our website the following details from your application:

  • project title
  • your name
  • details of proposal.

Once all decisions have been communicated to applicants, we'll also publish a short summary of why you have been successful or not. 

The publishing of proposals and decision summaries only applies to this scheme and the Open Research Fund.

Disabled applicants

If you are disabled or have a chronic health condition, we can support you with the application process.


This is a one-off scheme. You must submit your application by 17:00 (BST) on the 20 April 2020. We don’t accept late applications.

  • Webinar

    4 February 2020, 16:00-17:00 GMT

  • Webinar

    10 February 2020 16:00-17:00 GMT

  • Full application deadline

    20 April 2020, 17:00 BST

  • Decision

    June 2020

Contact us

Contact our information officers if you have a question about funding.

If you have a question about the scope and content of your proposal, email

Applications submitted in 2020

Read the project proposals submitted in 2020, including explanations from Wellcome staff about why they were successful or unsuccessful.