Open Access Policy FAQ

The following questions are updated as new information becomes available. Email questions and comments to

About the Policy & Key Updates

The free, immediate, and unrestricted access to research will accelerate innovation, helping to reduce global inequity and empower the world’s poorest people to transform their own lives. The policy ensures that all Gates-funded research is freely available at the time of publication and licensed for reuse.

In January 2015, we introduced our Open Access policy to enable unrestricted access and reuse of all Funded Developments consisting of primary, peer-reviewed published research funded, in whole or in part, by the foundation, including any underlying data sets.

Effective January 1, 2021, the policy will be updated to be consistent with the key principles of Plan S. As a member of cOAlition S, the foundation is committed to working in partnership with other funders to make all research articles open by default.

Our original open access policy was introduced five years ago and there have been significant changes in the publishing landscape. While we’ve seen great progress in our goal to make publishing outputs more freely available, we have an opportunity to strengthen this momentum and tackle even bigger health challenges by evolving our policy to align with Plan S. These open access principles are endorsed by a global coalition of funders including the Wellcome Trust, UKRI, the European Commission, HHMI, and the World Health Organization. Together we seek to generate even greater levels of open access funded research and data.

What are the key changes to the policy?

  • Grantees retain copyright to their research articles and the underlying data, and hold the rights necessary to make a version of the accepted article available at the time of publication under a CC BY license. This is a new requirement.
  • We will no longer fund OA publication costs in subscription journals (or “hybrid OA) outside of a transformative arrangement. We previously supported the hybrid OA model.
  • Each accepted article must be accompanied by a Data Availability Statement that details where the underlying data can be found. This is a new requirement.
  • Preprint publication and adherence to the FAIR data principles are strongly encouraged.

Transformative arrangements are inclusive of Transformative Journals and Transformative Agreements. The foundation and the other cOAlition S funders are supportive of these arrangements.

A Transformative Journal is a subscription/hybrid journal that has openly committed to transform to a fully open access journal within a set time period. In addition, it must also gradually increase the share of OA content and offset subscription income from payments for publishing services (to avoid double payments). The foundation will continue to pay reasonable APC and publisher fees for article publication during the transformation period of these journals.

A Transformative Agreement is a negotiated contract between institutions (e.g. libraries, national and regional consortia) and publishers to transform the business model from one based on toll access (subscription) to one in which publishers are remunerated a fair price for their open access publishing services. The foundation is not currently part of any transformative agreements.

The Open Access Policy applies to all peer-reviewed, published research funded by the foundation, whether the funding is in whole or in part. Agreements with a start date as of January 1, 2015, are required to comply with all elements of the policy.

If other funders of a multi-funded grant are concerned about complying with the policy, the foundation will engage in a discussion with the other funders to understand their concerns. Grantees can contact their Program Officer or

Accepted peer-reviewed articles are posted on the publisher’s website. The foundation also requires accepted articles to be deposited in an open repository such as PubMed Central or Zenodo. Most publishers automatically deposit published articles to PubMed Central. Grantees can also post their accepted manuscript in PubMed Central (instructions will be forthcoming) when there is no publisher deposit.

Solving the world’s hardest problems requires the collaboration of many partners, and it is crucial that they can access and use research without restriction. A CC BY license allows users to build upon the research without restriction while also ensuring that appropriate attribution is given.  This video provides more detailed information about CC BY.

Open access publishing is a non-negotiable term included in all grant agreements as of January 1, 2015.  The policy changes introduced in 2021 allow grantees to publish in any journal provided they meet the updated guidelines. Please see the Grantee Guide for an overview to navigating the publishing process.

Coalition S Engagement and Plan S

cOAlition S is an international group of research funders—including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—who are committed to working together to advance open access. They support the implementation of Plan S, which spells out 10 guiding principles for the future of open access publishing. As of January 1, 2021, all members of cOAlition S will require the recipients of their funds to adhere to open access policies.

cOAlition S’s set of 10 guiding principles for the future of open access publishing.

The urgency of today’s biggest challenges requires us to continue taking bold steps to innovate and share research, yet non-compliant journals in the broader publishing system have not evolved their policies to meet this need. Further, we believe authors should be able to retain the rights to their work no matter where they choose to publish it. If more research is freely available, accessible, and reusable, then more lives could be saved and more people could reach their full potential. We believe the best way to accomplish these goals is to work with other organizations who are seeking to make positive change by investing more in open access.

cOAlition S has developed a Rights Retention Strategy to give researchers supported by a cOAlition S Organisation the freedom to publish in their journal of choice, including subscription journals, whilst remaining fully compliant with Plan S.

The foundation will be updating its grant conditions before January 2021 with the aim of ensuring that our Funded Developments, and anyone supported/associated with the grant, can publish in any journal they choose and remain fully compliant.

By accepting our grant conditions, grantees agree to make their research articles open access in line with our policy. However, when grantholders submit their articles for publication, they are often asked to sign a publishing agreement that gives away their rights to deposit in an open access repository and to publish under a public copyright – CC BY – license. This makes compliance with our open access policy difficult or impossible.

Under the updated conditions, grantees will automatically apply a CC BY licence to all  future  author accepted manuscripts reporting original research supported in whole, or in part, by our grant funding. This will ensure they are compliant with our open access policy.

The approach has been endorsed by cOAlition S funders.

Payment & Budgeting

The foundation is responsible for individual article processing charges and fees to enable grantees to comply with the foundation’s Open Access Policy.

The foundation will pay these fees from a central budget provided the grantee is publishing in a fully OA journal that is indexed by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

Starting in 2021, all publishing charges for hybrid OA journals will be discontinued for articles submitted after January 1, 2021. Exceptions will be provided to Transformative Journals who have openly committed to transition to full open access within a set period of time.

Some journals, such as the BMJ, publish all research articles open access but charge for access to other content such as editorial and commentaries. These journals are not considered hybrid and the foundation will cover the APC and publisher fees for research articles published.

Grant and contract budgets should not include open access fees, which are typically $1200-$5200 per article. The foundation will pay these fees from a central budget (not the grant or contract budget) directly to the applicable publisher or service provider. A central budget ensures that all published, peer-reviewed research is funded regardless of the agreement end date.

For individual articles, the central open access budget will also cover additional costs such as page charges in order to minimize administrative burden. For special issues and supplements, only the open access publishing fees are covered by the central open access budget. The foundation's program team and grantee are responsible for managing any publisher agreements and covering any additional costs beyond the open access fees. To ensure stewardship of the foundation's funds, the program team is best positioned to determine if these additional costs and contract terms are warranted to achieve overall funding goals and outcomes.

The foundation is unable to reimburse grantees for payments already made to a publisher or service provider.

The foundation has arrangements with most leading publishers so that invoices are addressed to the foundation for payment.

Grantees should not pay these fees out of their budget or seek reimbursement from the foundation. Instead, invoices should be directed to the foundation for payment from the central budget directly to the publisher or service provider. Please send invoices to

Underlying Data Guidelines

The Open Access Policy requires that the source data underlying published research results will be accessible and open immediately.

The following overview focuses on data underlying published research. Activities around pre-publication data planning, collection, analysis, storage, sovereignty, informed consent, interoperability, and the use of disciplinary standards are addressed at the individual grant and contract level by the grantee and program officer during the proposal stage.

More information about data you need to include, where your data can be stored, and how your data should be presented is available on the Gates Open Research website.

These guidelines are aligned with existing industry best practices, including data availability policies required by several publishers. As new practices emerge, the guidelines will be reviewed and updated as needed. Any questions or suggestions to these guidelines should be sent to

Underlying data encompasses all primary data, associated metadata, and any additional relevant data necessary to understand, assess, and replicate the reported study findings in totality.

Underlying data can be compiled into any file type, including any necessary access instructions, code, or supporting information files, to ensure the file(s) can be accessed and used by others.

Note: We do not require sharing of data that is ethically unsound or legally encumbered.

Providing access to underlying data is key in fulfilling the foundation’s mission of rapid and free exchange of scientific ideas to move humanity forward by improving and saving lives. Without barriers the scientific community can freely benefit from data and build upon each other’s work.

Access to underlying data allows for:

  • Barrier-free and timely access to data
  • Reassessment of current data interpretations and analysis
  • Ability to verify, reproduce, and reuse data in new ways
  • Data provenance and preservation

What are Data Availability Statements?

The foundation’s updated policy requires that grantees make publicly available all underlying data necessary to replicate the published findings at the time of publication. When specific legal or ethical restrictions prohibit public sharing of a data set, grantees must indicate how others may obtain access to the data.

All articles must include a Data Availability statement, even where there is no data associated with the article. This statement should be added to the end of the manuscript prior to submission. The Data Availability statement should not refer readers or reviewers to contact an author to obtain the data, but should instead include the applicable details where the underlying data can be found. These Data Availability Statements should also be published as part of the final article.

These publishers have detailed requirements for underlying data and guidelines for data availability statements:

How should grantees make data accessible and open?

  • The repository you choose should:
    • Enable immediate open access to the underlying data upon publication of your article.
    • Allow funder acknowledgment
    • Allow reuse with licensing no more restrictive than Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Generic License (CC BY 4.0).
    • Assign your dataset with a persistent and unique identifier, such as a DOI (digital object identifier), to facilitate linking and citation.
    • Provide long-term storage and preservation, such as those that meet the ISO’s trustworthy digital repository standards.

Best practice: Deposit data in a repository already established for your research domain according to the recognized standards of your discipline. Required or suggested repositories are often identified within a journal’s author guidelines.

Gates Open Research Data Guidelines provide submission options based on data type.

For further suggestions, see:

When no established repository is available: Deposit data in your institutional research data repository or in a generalist repository, such as:

  • Zenodo – a repository developed and hosted by CERN that enables researchers to share and preserve research outputs in any size, any format, and from any science.
  • Dataverse – an open source web application developed by Harvard University to share, preserve, cite, explore, and analyze research data.
  • Dryad – a curated resource that makes the data underlying scientific publications discoverable, freely reusable, and citable.
  • Figshare – a repository where users can make all of their research outputs available in a citable, shareable, and discoverable manner.

The FAIR data principles are guidelines to improve the Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse of digital assets. These principles emphasize machine-actionability as humans increasingly rely on computational support to manage data due to rapid increases in generated volume and complexity.

The FAIR data principles:

  • Support knowledge discovery and innovation
  • Support data and knowledge integration
  • Promote sharing and reuse of data
  • Are discipline-independent and allow for differences in discipline
  • Help data and metadata to be ‘machine readable’, supporting new discoveries through the harvest and analysis of multiple datasets.

How do FAIR and Open Data differ?

FAIR data stresses that data must be retrievable without specialized or proprietary tools or communication methods, and that data should be released with a clear and accessible usage license. Individuals and organizations that put FAIR data principles into practice may do so under a variety of data usage licenses. In other words, FAIR does not necessarily imply Open; data can be FAIR and shared under restrictions.

There are many valid reasons to restrict data access, including: data that contains personal information, cases where consent has not been given for release, confidential commercial information, or situations where there are sound public good reasons for restricting data (e.g. protection of endangered species, archaeological sites or aspects of national security). The use of anonymization techniques, data sharing agreements, and safe havens where data can be accessed in controlled and secure circumstances are key in such cases.

That being said, the greatest benefits come when data is both FAIR and Open, supporting the widest possible reuse, and reuse at scale.

The foundation endorses the FAIR Data Principles as a framework to promote the broadest reuse of research data.

FAIR Principles Grantee Actions


In order for data to be reused, it must be findable. To ensure that others can find your data, we ask that data be hosted by a stable and recognized open repository (where it is safe to do so) and assigned a globally unique persistent identifier (such as a DOI). Using such a repository and identifier ensures that your dataset continues to be available to both humans and machines in a useable form in the future. To aid discoverability, data should also be described using appropriate metadata. The content and format of metadata is often guided by a specific discipline and/or repository through the use of a metadata standard. When depositing data in a repository, it is important that you fill in as many fields as possible as this information usually contributes to the metadata record(s). In some cases, specifically where using a discipline-specific repository, the submission of metadata files alongside the data may be required.

Make the output accessible via the web

Obtain a unique, persistent identifier for each data output

Annotate the output with rich metadata describing its origin, contents and related project output


Data accessibility is defined by the presence of a user license. Data supporting Gates funded research should be openly published under the CC0 license which facilitates data reuse. For software and source code, we strongly advise the use an OSI-approved license. We recognized that there are cases where openly sharing data may not be feasible (due to ethical or confidentiality considerations). In these cases, we have policies in place to allow the publication of articles associated with such data, while still maintaining the appropriate level of security.

For practical guidance please see Add a Data Availability statement to your manuscript.

Apply an appropriate open usage license to the data

Include a data availability statement with your article at submission


Interoperable data can be compared and combined with data from different sources by both humans and machines – promoting integrative analyses. To bolster interoperability, data should be stored in a non-proprietary open file format and described using a standard vocabulary (where available). In some cases, the preferred file formats and vocabularies will be dictated by the repository you choose to host your data.

For practical guidance please see Prepare your data for sharing.

Format the output according to an easily processed encoding format

For data sets, align any terms with domain-relevant community standards and vocabularies


Data that is findable, accessible, and interoperable is generally fit for reuse. On occasion, the inclusion of additional documentation alongside the data may be required to ensure that the data are understandable and thus reusable. As a general rule, someone who is not familiar with the data should be able to understand what it is about using only the metadata and documentation provided.

By extension, the same practices that enable data reuse also support reproducibility.

Include any additional documentation that enhances the understanding of the data


This list of resources can provide best practices and guidance to support grantees aiming to make data FAIR: 

Why Preprints

The foundation encourages the posting of preprints of articles submitted for publication to accelerate the dissemination of the information and data while the article is under peer review. These preprints should be the full manuscript and under a CC BY license.

Posting preprints is not a requirement and will not satisfy the requirements of the open access policy.

Gates Open Research

Gates Open Research publishes scholarly articles reporting any basic scientific, translational, applied and clinical research (including quantitative and qualitative studies) that has been funded (or co-funded) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Each publication must have at least one author who has been, or still is, a recipient of a Gates Foundation grant.

Articles must be original (not duplications). All research, including clinical trials, systematic reviews, software tools, method articles, and many others, is welcome and will be published irrespective of the perceived level of interest or novelty; confirmatory and negative results, as well as null studies are all suitable. See the full list of article types here.

All articles are published using a fully transparent, author-driven model: the authors are solely responsible for the content of their article. Invited peer review takes place openly after publication, and the authors play a crucial role in ensuring that the article is peer-reviewed by independent experts in a timely manner. Articles that pass peer review will be indexed in PubMed and elsewhere.

Gates Open Research is an Open Research platform: all articles are published open access under a CC-BY license; the publishing and peer-review processes are fully transparent; and authors are asked to include detailed descriptions of methods and to provide full and easy access to source data underlying the results to improve reproducibility.


All submissions to Gates Open Research start at the Submit your Research page, where authors will need to confirm their grant number.

There will be no charge for authors. All publishing costs will be covered directly by the Gates Foundation, which will pay the service provider, F1000, a fixed charge per published article. F1000 will provide editorial, production and administrative support to authors throughout the publication and post-publication peer review process.

The Gates Foundation is providing this platform to its grantees so they can easily comply with the foundation’s Open Access Policy. By using Gates Open Research, grantees can make their funded research available as soon as it is ready, undergo open peer review, increase the speed with which research is disseminated and enable the sharing of results across the scientific community.

For more information visit the Gates Open Research homepage.

Open Science Projects

The foundation is participating in the worldwide effort to define success in open science, and to establish measurements and partnerships that exemplify how open science can enrich our lives with greater reach and impact.

  • The Leadership Forum was the first of a multi-step process to develop a ‘toolbox’ of practical and transparent indicators for assessing where and when OS models of collaboration best advance science, innovation and public benefit. This project was inspired by the recent adoption of a broad institution-wide OS policy at the Montreal Neurological Institute (the Neuro), Canada’s leading center for neuroscience research and patient care.

    Publications associated with this project

    • Report: Defining Success in Open Science outlines the success outcomes defined by the Leadership Forum participants.
    • Gold ER, Ali-Khan SE, Allen L et al. An open toolkit for tracking open science partnership implementation and impact [version 2; peer review: 2 approved]. Gates Open Res 2019, 3:1442 (
  • AAAS and the foundation entered in a multi-year agreement to enable grantees to publish in the AAS suite of journals, including Science Magazine. For more information about the outcomes, see this joint report.