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Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute


Wellcome’s open access policy is changing.

From 1 January 2021, Wellcome’s open access policy has changed. It will now require all research articles which arise from Wellcome funding to be made freely available at the time of publication and be openly licenced.  The overarching aim of the new open access policy is to make sure that knowledge and discoveries resulting from Wellcome funding are shared and used in a way that maximises their benefit to health.

The new open access policy is in line with the key principles of Plan S. Wellcome is a member of cOAlition S and is committed to working in partnership with other funders to make all research articles open access.

This page is designed to give some top-level guidance to the changes, and signpost to available support and resources.  If you have further questions, please contact the Institute Comms Team.

What are the main changes?

From 1 January 2021:

All original research funded by Wellcome and other Plan S funders must either be published in Open Access Journals, on Open Access Platforms, or made immediately available through Open Access Repositories (Europe PubMed Central) without embargo, and with a creative commons CC BY licence. 

Wellcome and other Plan S funders will no longer fund article processing charges for original research published in subscription or hybrid journals unless they have been categorised as “Transformative Journals”.

What is a 'Transformative Journal'?

A Transformative Journal is a subscription or hybrid journal that has signed up to begin changing their business model to full open access.   

Nature and the Nature-branded research titles, are set to become Transformative Journals in 2021.

Under the new open access policy, original research may be published in a ‘Transformative Journal’.

Can I still publish in a hybrid or subscription journal?

Yes.  However, the author will need to deposit their accepted manuscript in Europe PubMed Central by the official publication date without any embargo.  The accepted manuscripts must also have a CC BY licence

NB.  Wellcome and Plan S funders will not financially support the publication fees for this publication route.

What is a CC BY licence?

Open access content can be made available under various licences, which define how your material can be used, shared and adapted.  The majority of open access publications are made available through Creative Commons (CC) licences. 

Most open access research is published under the CC BY licence. This is the most accommodating licence and allows others to distribute, adapt and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.  The new policy requires all original research to be published with a CC BY licence.

In certain cases, where the author has express permission from the funders, a CC BY ND license may be used.  This is a slightly more restrictive license that lets others reuse the work for any purpose, however it means the work cannot be shared with others in adapted form, and credit must be provided to you. 

Learn more about licences.

How do I make sure I am covered by a CC BY licence?

The following statement must be included in submitted manuscripts:

'This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Wellcome Trust [Grant number]. For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.‘

This will ensure that you are able to retain the rights to your accepted manuscript, and enable you to deposit it in Europe PubMed Central with a CC BY licence.

You are advised to include a similar statement in your cover letter to the journal’s editor.

Which outputs are not affected by the new policy?

The new policy does not cover monographs or book chapters. Wellcome funded PhD theses are not affected, although Wellcome expects those to be made openly available via EthOS.  Any publications resulting from a PhD student’s project will need to be compliant with the new open access policy.

Preprints are covered in circumstances where there is a significant public health benefit in making the content available, in which case the preprint should be available with a CC BY licence prior to peer review.

How do I know if the journal I want to publish in is compliant?

Most fully Open Access journals state this fact in their description on their website and it should appear in the teaser description when you carry out an internet search for the Journal name. e.g. Try searching Nature Communications, you will see in the description that it is an open access journal. 

Alternatively, you can search for the Journal in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Wellcome has also developped a journal checker, which researchers can use to determine if their journal of choice is compliant.

How do I ensure my publication is compliant with the new policy?

There are 3 options for being compliant with Wellcome's Open Access policy:

1.  Publish in a fully Open Access Journal or on an Open Access Platform

Wellcome and Plan S funders will support your publication fee

2.  Publish in a ‘Transformative Journal’ (a subscription journal in transition to being open access)

Wellcome and Plan S funders can contribute financially to Open Access publishing (which will be managed at the University level)

3.  Publish in a subscription journal with either the final published version or the author’s accepted manuscript openly available in a repository by publication date

Wellcome and Plan S funders will not financially support the publication fees or this publication

More information on complying with Wellcome's Open Access Policy.



What if I don’t comply?

Wellcome continues to apply sanctions for non-compliance. Potential sanctions include:

- not accepting new grant applications

- suspending funding to organisations in extreme cases.

What if I am a contributing author with collaborators to whom the new rules don’t apply?

The expectation from Wellcome and Plan S funders is that you will comply with Plan S requirements on all publications.  We encourage you to discuss your obligations linked to the Wellcome with your collaborators early in the publication process.

What action do I need to take now?

As a researcher at the Wellcome – MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (which is core funded in part by Wellcome), all original research submitted from 1st January 2021 will need to comply with the new Wellcome guidelines.

From January 2021, you should make plans to publish your research in fully Open Access Journals or in ‘Transformative Journals’.

From January 2021, your research articles must be made freely available through Open Access Repositories (Europe PubMed Central) at the time of publication.

Your open access research will need a creative commons CC BY licence (unless you have express permission from Wellcome to use a CC BY ND licence).

More Questions?

If you have further questions regarding the new Open Access policy, please contact