10 January 2017

The MRC Supports Preprints

The MRC requires that the results of the research it funds are published, ideally in peer-reviewed journals; also that all such articles, whether published in an open access or subscription-based journal, must be archived in Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC) and made freely available as soon as possible, and in any event within six months of the first onā€line publication.

However, we are now also actively encouraging researchers to share their pre-peer reviewed manuscripts via established preprint servers. To this end, we are allowing researchers to cite preprints in their grant and fellowship applications. This will come into effect with applications received after 1 April 2017.

A preprint is a complete scientific manuscript (often one also being submitted to a peer-reviewed journal) that is uploaded by the authors to a preprint repository or service (eg. bioRxiv, PeerJ Preprints, arXiv, SocArXiv or PsyArXiv), without formal review.

The MRC recognises that preprints are a valuable way for researchers to publish their results; in particular to:

  • establish early claim to research findings
  • bring to the attention of others, particularly other researchers, the most recent research findings (before peer review)
  • publish the outputs of research that may not be suitable for a full research paper
  • provide additional (or earlier) evidence of productivity, while avoiding deliberate ‘salami-slicing’
  • enhance openness and speedy dissemination of research findings.

The MRC welcomes the inclusion of preprints in publication lists contained within:

  • grant and Fellowship applications
  • applications for posts that require evidence of research productivity
  • MRC Unit and Institute quinquennial review progress reports and future proposals.

Preprints may be cited in applications only if they have a permanent identifier such as a DOI or any other persistent identifier.

To discourage ‘salami-slicing’ and because most findings in pre-prints are subsequently included in peer reviewed publications, preprints should only be referenced when they are less than five years old at the time the application is submitted. This requirement will be kept under review.

Reviewers (external and Board/Panel members) and interviewers should take account of preprints in considering applications and in interviews, noting the content of the papers, not where they, or subsequent peer reviewed papers, are published.

As well as permitting applicants to cite preprints in applications and in CVs, authors are encouraged, where appropriate, to cite preprints in publications.

Note: The MRC’s open access policy does not apply to preprints; but it does apply to any subsequent peer-reviewed papers.