11 October 2021

During August this year, the ARC released outcomes for the successful 2021 Future Fellowships and the 2022 Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRAs).

17 of the total 675 ARC applications submitted for the Future Fellowships scheme (100 were funded) and 15 of the 996 applications for the DECRA scheme (196 were funded) were advised as ineligible due to citing of preprint publications.

In accordance with the Australian Research Council Act 2001 and the Government grants policy framework, all applications for research grants are subject to a set of eligibility criteria, regardless of discipline, detailed each round in the Grant Guidelines, the Instructions to Applicants, and the application form.

For the 2021 rounds in September 2020, the ARC had strengthened its handling of preprints to ensure consistency in the treatment of applications across all disciplines.

The preprint requirement in place at the time of application excluded reference to preprints in any part of an ARC grant application because they had not been through a rigorous peer review process and this could change during the grant application process.

Change of policy for rounds yet to open

Following feedback from the research sector, the ARC consulted with a range of key stakeholders, and on 14 September 2021 the ARC published a communique advising that the ARC would adjust its preprint requirements for all future rounds.

The ARC will now allow the referencing and inclusion of preprints in any part of a National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) grant application. This includes within the Research Outputs list as well as the body of an application. This has been broadly well received by the research community.

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.

We continue to work through what is required to change the preprint requirements for schemes that were already open, as well as schemes that are still to open. This is an ongoing process with a number of necessary procedures, systems and legislative changes to be put in place. Changes are now in effect and have now been communicated to the sector for documentation for the below currently open schemes which close on 15 October 2021, allowing preprints:

  • Grant Guidelines for the Industrial Transformation Research Program commencing in 2022
  • Instructions to Applicants (ITAs) for Industrial Transformation Training Centres 2022 (IC22) and Industrial Transformation Research Hubs 2022 (IH22)
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for IC22 and IH22

Advice will be provided as soon as possible about the yet to open schemes including Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) 2023, Australian Laureate Fellowships 2022 and Future Fellowships 2022, which have had their opening delayed. We appreciate your patience while these are finalised.

Appeals process for announced and current rounds

We are unable to change the preprint requirements in the Grant Guidelines that were in place for schemes where application periods have now closed. The ARC has an appeals process for NCGP administrative decisions, including specific clause(s) of the grant guidelines, policies or procedures. The appeals process is designed to ensure that applicants have been treated fairly and consistently in the context of the selection process.

Appeals are overseen by a group of experienced and respected individuals from outside of the ARC, known as the ARC Appeals committee.

Appeals received relating to preprints from the announced 2021 Future Fellowships and 2022 Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRAs) schemes have been referred to the ARC Appeals committee for consideration. The ARC will not pre-empt the outcome or any recommendations of the committee.

Appeals will be processed as usual and outcomes of these appeals will be used to guide consistent application of policy to other ARC schemes operating under the same guidelines, including other closed scheme rounds yet to be announced. The ARC will need to allow the independent appeals processes to be completed before determining an appropriate course of action.

The ARC reiterates its commitment to supporting researchers and maintaining a transparent and consistent approach.