Open Research Fund (Closed)

This funding supports researchers to develop and test incentives for making health research more open, accessible and reusable.

We’re changing our funding schemes

The way we fund research is changing to support our new strategy.

Scheme at a glance 

This scheme is now closed

Lead applicant career stage:
Funding amount:

Up to £100,000

Funding duration:

Up to two years

Key dates

This scheme will close in 2021. These are the final dates.

  • Call opens

    11 January 2021

  • Webinars

    2 February 2021 at 15:00 GMT and 17 February 2021 at 10:00 GMT

  • Concept note deadline

    12 March 2021, 23:59 GMT

  • Successful applicants invited to submit full applications

    By 12 April 2021

  • Full application deadline

    21 May 2021, 17:00 BST

  • Announcement of successful applicants

    July 2021

Who can apply

You can apply to the Open Research Fund if you want to develop and test incentives for making health research more open, accessible and reusable. 

These awards are open to individuals or teams of up to six members. 

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

You can apply if you’re based at:

  • an academic research organisation
  • a not-for-profit body
  • a private sector organisation.  

You must be able to accept our standard grant conditions.

Your proposal  

The main focus of your proposal must be to incentivise researchers to make their health research more open, accessible and reusable. You must propose to trial new tools, resources or ways of working to do this.

You must also evaluate the impact, benefits and risks of your work.

We welcome proposals that encourage collaboration across international borders, and between different organisations, sectors and disciplines. 

We encourage you to consider including a team member or collaborator with behavioural or social science expertise.

We don't want to be prescriptive with this funding – you should come to us with your ideas. Examples could include the following:

  • Develop and test new metrics to track the impact of making a full range of research outputs open and accessible. Assign credit to researchers and their teams (which may include data scientists, software developers and others). 
  • Pilot new approaches to recognise and reward open research contributions in research assessment processes – including recruitment, promotion, tenure and funding. 
  • Test novel approaches to stimulate or nudge behaviour change within or across research fields – for example, developing rewards to recognise good practice. 
  • Develop and evaluate approaches to embed open research behaviours within organisations or research fields – for example, trialling novel approaches for training researchers or supporting networks of open research 'champions'.  

We will review: 

  • the vision for your proposed activities, including aims, target audiences and how you'll share your outcomes to improve the open practices of your target audience and beyond
  • how you’ll evaluate the outcome and impact of your proposed activities, including success and risk indicators.

Previous project proposals

Read the project proposals submitted since 2018, including explanations from Wellcome staff about why they were successful or unsuccessful. The focus for these rounds was different to the 2021 round.

Who can't apply

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

You can ask for funding of up to £100,000 for up to two 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.

  • activities to manage and share research data, software or materials resulting from your proposed activities
  • You can ask for costs to:

    • communicate your open research plans to potential users and collaborators
    • create training guides and resources
    • 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.

  • We've changed our overheads policy for grant applications submitted from 1 October 2019. Read our updated policy and the 'How to ask for these costs' section below.

    How to ask for these costs

    This process applies if you’re now eligible to ask for overhead costs.

    In your 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, confirming that the breakdown is a true representation of the costs incurred.

    Our previous policy

    This information applies to grant applications submitted up to 30 September 2019.

    We cover research management and support costs if:

    • your host organisation is in a low- or middle-income country and your grant will be directly awarded to that organisation,


    • part of your grant will be sub-contracted to an organisation in a low- or middle-income country.

    We don't cover these costs if your host organisation will include the sub-contracted funding in its annual report to the UK Charity Research Support Fund.

    They can include:

    • training costs, eg transferable skills and personal development training for you and any other people employed on your grant
    • costs for short-term professional training for administrative, technical and support staff
    • administration, eg grant management, technical and administrative services
    • other costs which are necessary for your research, eg computing and internet access costs, access to electronic resources, facility and running costs such as utilities, furniture, waste disposal and incineration, and building maintenance.

    The total research management and support costs should not be more than 20% of the direct research costs you're requesting.

    See a list of low- and middle-income countries.

  • 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.

We don't fund overheads unless they're included on this page (for example research management and support costs).

Stages of application

  1. Before you apply

    To hear more about the Open Research Fund, and to ask questions, join our webinar:

    Register for the webinar on 17 February 2021 at 10:00 GMT

    Or you can watch a webinar recording about the Open Research Fund that took place on 2 February 2021.

  2. Submit your concept note

    Submit a concept note for the Open Research Fund by 12 March 2021, 23:59 GMT.

    You can view a PDF version of the concept note here:  Sample concept note for the Open Research Fund [PDF 55KB]

    We only accept a maximum of two concept notes for each applicant.

    If you’re applying as a team, one member must submit the concept note on behalf of the team.

    We'll assess your eligibility and suitability and give you a decision within five weeks of the concept note deadline. If your concept note is successful, we'll invite you to submit a full application.

  3. Submit your invited full application

    You must submit your full application through Grant Tracker.

  4. Review

    Wellcome and the Open Research Fund Committee will assess your application. 

  5. Decision

    We aim to give you a decision within ten weeks of the Open Research Fund application deadline. There are no interviews. 

    Where possible, feedback will be provided to unsuccessful applicants. 

Publishing your application

We'll publish on our website the following details from your concept note (with your permission) and your invited full 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 Learned Society Curation Awards.

Disabled applicants

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

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

What you need to know if you're a grant applicant or grantholder.


We don't accept late applications.

  • Call opens

    11 January 2021

  • Webinars

    2 February 2021 at 15:00 GMT and 17 February 2021 at 10:00 GMT

  • Concept note deadline

    12 March 2021, 23:59 GMT

  • Successful applicants invited to submit full applications

    By 12 April 2021

  • Full application deadline

    21 May 2021, 17:00 BST

  • Announcement of successful applicants

    July 2021

Grants awarded

Find out about some of the people and projects we've funded for this scheme.

Contact us


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

Previous project proposals

Read the project proposals submitted since 2018, including explanations from Wellcome staff about why they were successful or unsuccessful.