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10 years of Open Access at the Wellcome Trust in 10 numbers

22 Oct, 2015
Open Access at the Wellcome Trust

Credit: Ed Grace, CC-BY-NC-SA

In October 2005 the Wellcome Trust became the first research funder to introduce a mandatory Open Access policy – requiring that all research outputs which arise from its funding must be made open access as soon as possible and in any event within six months of publication. To celebrate 10 years of open access at the Trust, Robert Kiley, Head of Digital Services at the Wellcome Library – who has been instrumental in the implementation of this policy over the last decade – provides his personal assessment of key developments in 10 numbers…

157 – the number of research funders who now have an open access policy

10 years of Open Access

Image credit: Ed Grace, CC-BY-NC-SA

Following the lead of the Wellcome Trust, a total of 157 research funders, from around the world, have introduced open access policies over the last decade. Universities have also recognised the value of making research outputs freely available, as seen by the fact that 514 of them now have open access policies.

£31m – the amount the Wellcome Trust has spent on open access publishing (so far!)

Tenners for blogcroppedThe Trust has always believed that dissemination costs are research costs and as such has provided funding to support open access publication costs. Over the last 10 years the Trust has committed around £31m on open access publication costs – a figure which equates to around 0.5% of our total research spend over this period (approx. £5.8bn). We believe the open access spend is a price worth paying to maximise the availability and use of our research.

3,411,755 – the number of free-to-read papers in Europe PubMed Central

The Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC) repository – developed in partnership with 26 other research funders across Europe – provides free online access to around 3.5m full-text research papers. Almost 2m (57%) of these papers, were published in the last 10 years.

As part of the Trust’s open access policy, researchers are required to make articles freely available through the Europe PMC repository. Since October 2005, some 35k articles – attributed to the Trust – have been made freely available through Europe PMC.

In 2013, the Trust expanded its policy to include monographs and book chapters and as of October 2015 and so far 21 texts have been made available.
Lots of OA papers

18.9m – the number of views/readers of Mosaic stories since its launch in 2014

This includes 16.4m reads that have come from the republishing of Mosaic content on other sites or print publications, under Creative Commons, subject only to the need to attribute the test to the original authors. Licensing under the Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC-BY) helps to maximise the use and re-use or articles. By way of example, this licence allows anyone to translate an article into a different language, and Mosaic stories have been translated into Spanish, French, Hungarian, Polish, Thai, Japanese, Farsi and Korean, among others.

20% – the volume of UK-funded research which is freely available at the time of publication

A recent study commissioned by Universities UK found that 20% of articles authored by UK researchers and published in the last two years were freely accessible upon publication. This figure increases to 24% within six months of publication, and 32% within 12 months.

134 – the number of times funding has been withheld because a researcher has not complied with our open access policy

WT OA Policy
In 2012 the Trust introduced a number of sanctions for researchers who failed to comply with our open access policy. In the three years subsequent to this announcement the Trust has withheld the final payment of a grant on 134 occasions. Of these, 114 (85%) have been resolved, and the final grant payment released.

97% – percentage of journals that offer a Wellcome-compliant publishing option

Analysis of where Wellcome authors publish, shows that the overwhelming majority of journals (97%) used by Wellcome-funded authors have a publishing option which is compliant with the Trust’s open access policy. Only 42 journals used by Wellcome –funded researchers do not offer a Wellcome-compliant publishing option.

£1837– the average cost of an article processing charge

In 2013-14 some 2556 articles, authored by Wellcome-funded authors, were published under the “author pays model”. Although the average article processing charge (APC) was £1837, analysis of the data showed that the APC levied by hybrid journals was 64% higher than the average APC charged by a fully open access titles. This higher average fee is despite the fact that hybrid journals also enjoy a revenue stream from subscriptions.

100,000 – the number of views of the Homo naledi article within the first two days of publication in eLife

h_naledi_flatsIn September 2015 eLife – the open access journal supported by the Wellcome Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Max Planck Society – published research about a previously-unknown species of extinct hominin. In the first two days following publication this article was viewed over 100,000 times.

4016 – the number of email discussions with publishers regarding the Trust’s open access policy

emailsOver the last decade a significant amount of time has been spent discussing our open access policy – and issues around its implementation – with all the major publishers. A cursory analysis of my email inbox shows that just over 4000 emails have been sent to publishers relating to our open access policy. The overwhelming majority of these have been to publishers who predominantly operate the hybrid open access model.

We’ve created a timeline of open access events, starting from the introduction of our open access policy 10 years ago, and you can read the policy itself on our website. As part of open access week 2015 we have teamed up with the US National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to launch a the Open Science Prize to unleash the power of open content and data – find out more in this post.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 23 Oct, 2015 12:44 pm

    Thank you for this very impressive post summarising the even more impressive work of the Wellcome Trust on open access! Particularly heartening is that 156 other funders have followed your lead, and that you have been prepared to levy financial sanctions on grantees who have not fulfilled their obligations. Less heartening is that 20 grantees apparently felt so strongly that they didn’t want their work to be open access that they were prepared to forego money. Also disappointing: the very high average APC paid: I hope you will be working to get that down. Anyway, great stuff — keep it up!

  2. 23 Oct, 2015 5:01 pm

    Mike — thanks for your comments. Re: APC’s. We don’t believe the market is working effectively (see: and ideally want to get to a position where the APC is based on the quality of the service provided.

  3. 16 Feb, 2016 12:23 am

    I’d love to reuse some of your images in a presentation – its for a job interview – I want to emphasize the role of the library in educating academics on their responsibilities to publish OA. Can I use them, and who should I credit?

  4. Clare Ryan permalink*
    22 Feb, 2016 4:39 pm

    Hi Ed – Clare from the Wellcome Trust media team here. You can use the images under the CC BY-NC-SA license conditions outlined here:

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