New boost for preprints after acceptance by ERC

European Research Council says move is to support open access and get round often lengthy publishing process

August 9, 2018
Unlocking red velvet rope
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Scientists have welcomed an official announcement by the European Research Council that it will accept preprints as evidence of academics’ previous work when applying for grants.

Preprints are first-draft papers yet to be peer-reviewed and published in a journal. They have long been used in fields such as physics to facilitate early discussion of results and to circumvent the often-lengthy journal review process.

In finally accepting preprints from applicants, the ERC’s scientific council said that it wanted to “signal support” for open-access publishing. Preprint platforms – such as arXiv, which focuses on mathematics and physics, and receives more than 10,000 submissions a month – are generally free to access, whereas many journals remain closed without a subscription.

Another reason for the change, the council continued, was because “in some fields, especially for frontier research, the timeliness of scholarly communication is crucial – the publication cycle can be too long”.

Megan Carey, a Lisbon-based neuroscientist, said on Twitter that the change was “great news for #openaccess in Europe!”

But it was also pointed out on Twitter that the ERC, in accepting preprints, has only just caught up with other funders – the US National Institutes of Health started accepting them last year to allow researchers to “accelerate dissemination and enhance the rigor of their work”.

The ERC also said that next year it would pilot allotting “lump sums” to researchers in an experiment to see what happens if spending bureaucracy is reduced drastically. The idea is to “test reduction of administrative burden and increase in implementation efficiency”, it said.

Lump-sum grants will be used first in the ERC’s proof of concept scheme, which aims to spin out socially or commercially useful innovations from existing ERC projects.

david.matthews@timeshighereducation.com

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