We want the research we fund to be open and accessible, so it can have the greatest possible impact.
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.
For researchers, their networks are invaluable, sharing data, code and materials. Helping each other to discover insights, and advance their research. What if your network, though, could be part of something bigger?
Recently, a new way of working has been gaining momentum. It’s called Open Research.
Researchers around the world, in all disciplines, store, share and reuse their outputs with the wider community, so everyone can access insights and knowledge much sooner, helping to advance their work and support reproducibility.
Open Research is already raising the profiles of researchers and increasing their ability to tackle some of society’s biggest issues. Of course, there are challenges, like promoting equitable access and protecting confidential data. But as a wider community, we can tackle these together – working out how to be as open as possible, but as closed as necessary.
Because when we all work together, openly, we can achieve so much more.
Open Research. Be open to something bolder.
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:
- the open access policy 2021
- our explainer to find out what will be different and why
- how we're addressing four key concerns about open access and Plan S
- a report we commissioned with UKRI, which looks at how learned society publishers can successfully transition to Plan S, and includes a toolkit for negotiating transformative agreements
- our guidance for research organisations on how to implement responsible and fair approaches for research assessment.
We held a series of webinars on our new open access policy in autumn 2020 – see the slides.
- 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 coronavirus or Ebola. Our open research team works with other teams across Wellcome and with partners to address these challenges.
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.
- 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 to 2020.
- 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].
- Together with Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we ran a consultation to hear researchers’ views on current barriers and opportunities in clinical trial data sharing.
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.