Tuesday, 24 August 2021
Australian Research Council
The Australian Research Council has an absurd new rule prohibiting the citing of preprints in grant applications. A preprint is a research paper that has been submitted to an academic journal that has not yet been peer reviewed for publication. Preprints are stored on servers to make the latest research accessible to researchers around the world. But for some obscure reason the Australian Research Council has decided that citing a preprint is enough to make an application ineligible. More than 20 applications for this year's Discovery Early Career Research Awards have been excluded. The ARC did not inform applicants directly. Its claim that an appeal is possible is sophistry, because many are on the second application for their project and can't apply again. This rule change is a fiasco. It shows that the ARC is out of touch with international best practice and also domestic best practice, given that the National Health and Medical Research Council accepts preprints. As the President of the Academy of Science, Professor John Shine, said in a letter to Minister Tudge, the rule change will have a 'major impact' on Australia's research potential. Professor Shine wrote:
It could easily be argued that a researcher not referencing material found in preprints is not using the full range of contemporary knowledge in a discipline.
This is an integrity issue. If grant applications cannot cite all the information they have used, they risk being accused of plagiarism for treating the research of others as their own. The ARC needs to explain itself and fix this mess quickly.