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.

Read the transcript

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 held a series of webinars on our new open access policy in autumn 2020 – see the slides.

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 coronavirus or Ebola. 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.

Support for researchers

Developing outputs management plans

From 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021, we’re piloting an outputs management plan support service.

The service will be available to Wellcome-funded researchers whose outputs management plans have been flagged – by committee members, peer reviewers or Wellcome staff – as requiring more detail. We will contact the researchers recommended for this service at the time of award.

Through the service, the open research team, in collaboration with institutional data stewards, will provide bespoke advice to researchers to help them build on their plan. For example, how, where and when research outputs should be shared, in line with best practice.

We encourage research outputs to be shared in line with the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable). Through the Research on Research Institute, we are supporting FAIRware  a cross-funder initiative to design and develop software tools to assess the extent to which datasets, software and other research outputs are being shared in line with these principles.  

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 we:

  • surveyed our researchers to find out how they practice open research and what barriers they face
  • ran the Wellcome Data Re-use Prizes to stimulate and celebrate the innovative re-use of research data 
  • 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 realise the power of open data
  • 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.

Funding opportunities  

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

These include:

  • 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. 
  • small amounts of funding to help researchers and organisations host meetings, workshops and events related to open research. 

For more information, contact the team at

Reports and data sets 

A full list of our published reports and data sets can be accessed on Figshare

Contact us 

Contact the team at