We accept preprints in grant applications: new guidance for researchers

We allow – and encourage – our researchers to deposit preprints of their publications, and to cite preprints and other non-traditional research outputs in their funding applications. We’re updating our application guidelines to make this clear.

At CRUK, we've had a few questions from funded researchers who are unsure if they can or should deposit preprints of their papers, and from applicants who wish to cite in their applications preprints of papers that have yet to be published in a peer reviewed journal. The answer to both is an enthusiastic 'yes, please do!'

This is not something new. We have always asked applicants to submit any preliminary work or results supporting their applications where the work has not yet been published in a peer reviewed journal, and preprints clearly fall in this category.

But we are now updating our guidelines to clarify our position in recognising the value of preprints as evidence of productivity. We believe posting preprints in public preprint servers will speed up dissemination of research findings, give credit to researchers who can claim their work early, and ultimately accelerate and improve scientific progress.

Recently there has been a renewed interest in preprints in the research community that resulted in public statements by Wellcome and the MRC in the UK, and the NIH in the US, that they would begin to accept preprint citations in grant applications.

Dr Fiona Reddington, Head of Population Research Funding, explains our own position:

At CRUK, we're supportive of any innovation that will help us to beat cancer sooner, and we encourage you to explore open science and new publishing options.
By sharing breakthroughs faster, preprints have the potential to help us accelerate progress, and we're keen to ensure that our own policies don't present any barrier to their uptake.

In addition to welcoming preprints, we ask our researchers to maximise the value of the research that we fund by publishing datasets and other research outputs, such as software, and we also welcome citations of these outputs where relevant in applications. This is in line with the principles of the San Francisco Declaration of Research assessment (DORA) signed by CRUK, with which we commit to consider the value and impact of all research outputs in addition to research publications.

We are currently updating our application guidelines and applications system so that you can cite all your research outputs listing separately peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed material, using digital object identifiers for each output.

More broadly, we encourage our researchers to embrace new opportunities enabled by 'open science' by making their work available as soon as possible and providing open and unrestricted access to published research. We are supportive of the Concordat on Open Research Data, which outlines principles of data management and publication; and we are partners in EuropePMC, which supports our policy on open access publishing.


What is a preprint?

Preprints are complete scientific manuscripts which are published online prior to being peer reviewed and accepted in a journal. Preprints are typically published in a preprint repository such as CSHL's BioRxiv. Preprints are assigned a unique digital object identifier so that they are easily discoverable and citable.

What are the benefits of publishing preprints?

Preprints get your breakthroughs published and shared faster, so they can begin to have an impact sooner, and so you can establish precedence for your discoveries quickly in fast-moving fields. Additionally, some preprint servers provide tools for feedback, helping you develop a manuscript ahead of submitting it for publication in a journal, and increasing opportunities for collaboration.

Wouldn't publishing a preprint prevent me publishing my research in a journal?

Preprints have long been considered as a separate entity from peer reviewed articles and are considered as complementary to journal articles. Most major publishers now accept submissions of articles that have also been previously posted online as preprints.

How do CRUK's funding committees judge the quality of cited research if it is not peer-reviewed?

In your funding application you should make it clear where cited evidence has not been peer reviewed. However, we ask our reviewers and funding committees when assessing an application for funding to judge all submitted evidence on its own merits, and publication in a peer reviewed journal is not accepted as a guarantee of quality. Both reviewers and committee members are invited to evaluate the scientific content of all research outputs.

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