Wellcome updates open access policy to align with cOAlition S

Following a large consultation, we have updated our open access (OA) policy so it now aligns with Plan S. The changes will apply from 1 January 2021. 

Illustration showing open access padlock symbol - one open, one shut
Credit: Wellcome

Last year we defined a set of objectives for our updated OA policy. At its core, and consistent with our policy over the past 13 years, we want to make sure that the knowledge and discoveries which result from our funding are made freely available and used in a way that maximises their benefit to health.  

We also want our OA policy to:

  • support a transition to a fully open access world, where no research is behind a paywall
  • be as clear and as straightforward as possible to comply with
  • make sure the costs of complying with it are fair and proportionate.

We remain committed to these core principles, but have updated our policy to be in full alignment with the latest Plan S guidance. The updated OA policy will apply to all research articles submitted for publication from 1 January 2021. Until then, researchers must continue to use our current policy.

We’re not changing our policy for monographs and book chapters – but we are keeping it under review.

What will change? 

These are the key changes to our OA policy.  

  • All Wellcome-funded research articles must be made freely available through PubMed Central (PMC) and Europe PMC at the time of publication. We previously allowed a six-month embargo period. This change will make sure that the peer-reviewed version is freely available to everyone at the time of publication.
  • All articles must be published under a Creative Commons attribution licence (CC BY), unless we have agreed, as an exception, to allow publication under a CC BY-ND licence. We previously only required a CC BY licence when an article processing charge (APC) was paid. This change will make sure that others – including commercial entities and AI/text-data mining services – can reuse our funded research to discover new knowledge.
  • Authors or their institutions must retain sufficient intellectual property rights to comply with their OA requirements.
  • We will no longer cover the cost of OA publishing in subscription journals (‘hybrid OA’), outside of a transformative arrangement. We previously supported this model, but no longer believe that it supports a transition to full OA.  
  • Where there is a significant public health benefit to preprints being shared widely and rapidly, such as a disease outbreak, these preprints must be published:
    • before peer review
    • on an approved platform that supports immediate publication of the complete manuscript
    • under a CC BY licence.

    This is a new requirement which will make sure that important research findings are shared as soon possible and before peer review.

  • Wellcome-funded organisations must sign or publicly commit to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), or an equivalent. We may ask organisations to show that they’re complying with this as part of our organisation audits. This is a new requirement to encourage organisations to consider the intrinsic merit of the work when making promotion and tenure decisions, not just the title of the journal or publisher.

How we carried out the review 

To help us carry out the review, we surveyed Wellcome grantholders and ran an open consultation to allow others to share their views. We also organised an evidence session to hear from representatives at key publishers, organisations and funders.

Read a summary of the discussions

Aligning our policy with other funders 

One of the key messages from grantholders was that our OA policy should be aligned with those of other funders.

We’re pleased to say that the updated policy is fully in line with Plan S, the OA policy framework developed by the European Commission and Science Europe. Plan S is endorsed by major funders, including UK Research and Innovation, the European Commission and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  

In aligning with Plan S, we will also join cOAlition S and work in partnership with our funding partners in Europe and beyond to support a transition to full, unrestricted and immediate access to all research articles.

More information