Archive for Australian Research Council

Preprints in Applications – a plea to the ARC!

Posted in Open Access, Science Politics with tags , on August 25, 2021 by telescoper

I was astonished to discover (via this article) that the Australian Research Council has placed a ban on preprints veing cited in funding applications, and that many applicants have had applications rejected solely on the basis that they referred to preprints in them.

It beggars belief that anyone who actually understands modern scientific practice could come up with such a stupid idea. I can only surmise that the people who run the Australian Research Council are so out of touch with actual research that they don’t understand not only the silliness of this rule but also the damage being caused by it.

I have been on grants panels in the UK many times, and have reviewed many applications for other agencies too, and I can’t think of any that didn’t refer to preprints. It can take a year or more for a paper to appear in a traditional journal and in many fields research moves so quickly that citing results ahead of (formal) publication is the only way to present a true picture of ongoing research. Any author who doesn’t cite other authors’ preprints is either out of touch with ongoing research or presented an unbalanced view of the literature. I would further argue that, at least in astrophysics, any applicant who doesn’t have a clutch of preprints on the topic of the application can’t be sufficiently active to justify grant funding.

Results made available in preprints may not have been refereed but that is no reason to ban them altogether. Any experienced reviewer will know how to treat them. And don’t forget there are plenty of wrong results in the refereed literature too. I’d prefer a policy that banned applicants whose papers were not published in an Open Access form…

There is a petition here urging the Australian Research Council to revise its preprint policies. I urge you to sign it (as I have done). Be quick, though, as the deadline is 31st August 2021.

And in case you think this is a matter for Australians only, I disagree. Science is collaborative and many of the collaborations span many different countries. It is in all our interests to ensure that our Australian cousins don’t get held back by inane policies like this.

UPDATE: Nature has now covered this story.