NIH approves citation of preprints and other interim research projects in grant applications

By Brittany Aguilar

Last Friday, the National Institutes of Health released a notice specifying that researchers can cite academic preprints and other interim research products in NIH grant applications.

“This is a pretty big step,” said Chris Pickett, director of Rescuing Biomedical Research. “Allowing investigators to cite their preprints in grant applications will give the scientists reviewing the grants a fuller view of a lab’s productivity and insight into their most recent and exciting work.”

In the notice, the NIH encourages investigators to cite these products in grant applications and provides guidance on how to cite these documents. The NIH is quick to establish that awardees are neither required to create nor submit preprints as a supplement to their application. If, however, the applicant chooses to submit preprints, or “interim research products” such as a preregistered protocol, specific citation guidelines are provided. In the event that the work communicated in an interim research product is NIH-funded, the NIH expects “awardees to ensure a high level of public access” by encouraging their work to be available in the public domain.

In late 2016, the NIH released a request for information soliciting comments on citing academic preprints and other interim research products in grant applications. Preprints, the RFI stated, “are created in order to increase the impact and rigor of a research study.” Both Rescuing Biomedical Research and ASAPbio responded in support of wider use of preprints in NIH grant applications, and the groups outlined several ways preprints could accelerate scientific progress, including quick dissemination of new findings, extensive and diverse commentary from peers, promoting collaboration amongst researchers and a demonstration of progress in research.

NIH Director Francis Collins and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Director Cori Bargmann spoke at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science Policy Forum on Monday, and both commented on the importance of open data sharing. Circulation of new research as preprints provides a cost and time-effective means of disseminating up-to-date scientific research. Additionally, including preprints in grant applications will allow researchers to demonstrate productivity, which is often crucial to being awarded a new grant.

Brittany Aguilar is interested in promoting public awareness of scientific advancements and encouraging stewardship of science within academia. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Georgetown University and is the founder of a graduate student organization, the Neuroscience Student Society, which serves to encourage dialogue in the areas of mentorship and graduate education. Brittany can be reached on Twitter (@brittaggie) or by email (

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