The Australian Research Council takes a stand against preprints

The Australian Research Council has disqualified a number of grants that were selected for funding on the basis that they cite research from pre-print services. This seems strange because pre-print servers are so important as a means to disseminate the latest research which ought to be critical to assessing a research proposal.

There is a very, very strong feeling in our community that this is absurd and disrespectful of the capability of reviewers (and the ARC’s College of Experts) to be able to tell the difference between a careful analysis of the state of the art including material that is publicly available but not yet reviewed and a few rogue applicants trying to puff up their CVs by adding their papers to preprint servers. The problem is that this rule targets the almost-non-existent rogues but mostly jams the brakes on the actual pursuit of knowledge.

Open Letter to the ARC

*Articles in the News:


Progress !


The ARC has issued a communique regarding an adjustment to ARC’s policy position on inclusion of preprints for future National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) applications.

Adjustments to the ARC’s position on preprints

For future scheme rounds, the ARC will allow the referencing and inclusion of preprints in any part of a National Competitive Grant Program (NCGP) grant application. This includes within the Research Outputs list as well as the body of an application.

This adjustment to ARC’s policy position reflects contemporary trends and the emerging significance of preprint acceptance and use across multiple research disciplines as a mechanism to expedite research and facilitate open research, as well as to provide greater equity across disciplines and career stages.

The following definition of a preprint, resulting from the recent sector consultation and developed in conjunction with a cohort of ARC Australian Laureate Fellows, will now be included in relevant NCGP documentation.

“A preprint or comparable resource is a scholarly output that is uploaded by the authors to a recognised publicly accessible archive, repository, or preprint service (such as, but not limited to, arXiv, bioRxiv, medRxiv, ChemRxiv, Peer J Preprints, Zenodo, GitHub, PsyArXiv and publicly available university or government repositories etc.). This will include a range of materials that have been subjected to varying degrees of peer review from none to light and full review. Ideally, a preprint or comparable resource should have a unique identifier or a DOI (digital object identifier). Any citation of a preprint or comparable resource should be explicitly identified as such and listed in the references with a DOI, URL or equivalent, version number and/or date of access, as applicable.”

The inclusion of preprints will no longer be considered an eligibility issue and applications will not be excluded by their use. Instead, the ARC will rely on the knowledge of its assessors in determining the value, suitability and relevance of citations and research outputs for the disciplinary field. Preprints and other comparable resources will form part of a holistic assessment of research outputs undertaken by peer reviewers to consider the quality and novelty of proposed research.

The ARC appreciates the feedback it has received from the research sector on the issue of the inclusion of preprints within NCGP grant applications. We thank the esteemed academics, learned academies, research institutions and peak bodies that have assisted the ARC to ensure that the broadest range of disciplinary perspectives could be incorporated into this policy decision.

The ARC will provide additional information within all new Instructions to Applicants and documentation to assist researchers in the inclusion of preprints within their RMS profile and application forms. Documentation for scheme rounds that are currently open for applications—Industrial Transformation Training Centres, Industrial Transformation Research Hubs and Linkage Projects—will be updated shortly.

The change to preprint requirements cannot be applied to scheme rounds where application periods have closed. While we acknowledge the widespread feedback that we have recently received, we must allow our standard application and appeals processes to be completed for these cases. We can assure the sector that the appeals process is overseen by a group of experienced and respected individuals independent of the ARC and will be progressed as a matter of priority.