Wellcome Trust Media Relations Manager Craig Brierley says that until now, Wellcome has "frequently reminded" grantholders about the so-called "open
access" policy, but "there were no defined sanctions." ("Open access" can also refer to journals that charge authors a fee and make papers freely available
when they're first published; the Wellcome Trust will pay such author fees for its grantees.)
By contrast, the U.S. National Institutes of Health says compliance with its similar, 4-year-old requirement that papers be posted in its PubMed Central
archive is now 75%, according to a March report (p.
11-12) (hat tip to this open access blog). The agency doesn't consider
compliance with the policy a factor during scientific peer review but deals with it administratively and can "delay or prevent awarding of funds," the
agency says. One difference from the Wellcome Trust policy is that NIH allows a 12-month delay, which
might make it easier for researchers to find journals that agree to the policy.
Strengthening the Wellcome Trust's open access policy: important information for grantholders
As you know, the Wellcome Trust is committed to ensuring that the published outputs of our funded research are made freely available, so that this
knowledge can be built on and used in a manner that maximises health and public benefit.
Since 2006, our open access policy has required that all original research papers funded in whole or in part by the Wellcome Trust be made available via
the UK PubMed Central repository as soon as possible, and in any event within six months of the date of publication.
At present, only 55 per cent of research papers acknowledging Wellcome Trust funding comply with our policy. This means that nearly half of our funded
publications remain restricted behind subscription paywalls, a situation that we believe is simply not acceptable.
For this reason, and with immediate effect, we will be strengthening the manner in which we enforce our policy in three key respects:
1. When Trust-funded researchers prepare final grant reports, we will require the principal investigator's head of department to provide signed assurance
that all papers associated with the grant comply with the Trust's policy. If they are unable to do this, the final payment on the grant will be withheld.
2. Non-compliant publications will be discounted as part of a researcher's track record in any renewal of an existing grant or new grant application.
3. Trust-funded researchers will be required to ensure that all publications associated with their Wellcome-funded research are compliant with the Trust's
policy before any funding renewals or new grant awards will be activated.
All three steps will apply to research articles published from 1 October 2009 onwards and will be incorporated in our grant conditions accordingly.
From early 2013, when Wellcome Trust funds are used to pay an open access fee, we will also require that a paper is freely available for all types of
re-use (including commercial uses) subject to appropriate acknowledgement. We will partner with the Research Councils in taking forward discussions with
publishers to implement this change over the coming months and provide further details in due course.
We remain committed to working with our funded researchers and institutions to assist them in making their research papers freely available. Detailed
guidance on how to do this is available on our website. Please contact us at any time if you have any queries or if there is any help we can provide.
Sir Mark Walport