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NIH Public Access Policy: How to Comply

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Key Points

1. The NIH Public Access Policy is mandatory

2. The policy only applies to peer-reviewed papers published in journals. Book chapters or editorials do not apply.

3. The policy only asks for final peer-reviewed manuscripts which many publishers allow you to deposit in institutional or subject repositories such as PMC. Final published articles can be deposited into PMC if you have copyright permissions.

4. Submissions to PMC need to be done upon acceptance of papers (instead of publication of papers). NIH is enforcing “submission at the time of acceptance”.

5. The policy requires NIH applications, proposals and progress reports to include the PubMed Central reference number (PMCID) when citing an applicable article.

Assistance and Support

The PSC Library offers a variety of services to help ISR researchers with compliance issues. When your paper is accepted for publication, please contact the library if you are not clear about the policy. We can submit the manuscripts to PubMed Central for you. We can also answer your questions regarding publisher's copyright policy, deposit procedures and compliance demonstration in proposals and progress reports.

Contact: yanfu@umich.edu

Steps to Compliance

Step One: Determine Applicability

The Policy applies to any manuscript that:

  • Is peer-reviewed;
  • And, is accepted for publication in a journal on or after April 7, 2008;
  • And, arises from:
    • Any direct funding from an NIH grant or cooperative agreement active in Fiscal Year 2008 or beyond, or;
    • Any direct funding from an NIH contract signed on or after April 7, 2008, or;
    • Any direct funding from the NIH Intramural Program, or;
    • An NIH employee

Step Two: Address Copyright & Find out Stipulations from Publishers

Before you sign a publication agreement or similar copyright transfer agreement, make sure that the agreement allows the paper to be posted to PubMed Central (PMC).

Most publishers are aware of the policy and allow researchers to comply. Some have stipulations outlined in the copyright transfer agreement or their websites. Examples of stipulations from publishers include embargo period andversion to post (final peer-reviewed vs final published article).

Further Resource:
Social Science Journal Author Information, for publisher policy and submission method
Journals/Publishers' Copyright and Archiving Policies (searchable by journal title and publisher name). Look for the green check in front of NIH and links to publishers' copyright policies.

Step Three: Manuscript Submission


There are 4 methods to have your manusripts submitted to PubMed Central.

Method A: Publish in a journal that deposits all NIH-funded final published articles in PMC without author involvement.

Method B: Make arrangements to have a publisher deposit a specific final published article in PMC, generally for a fee.

Method C: Deposit the final peer-reviewed manuscript in PMC yourself (or by a third party) via the NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS).

Method D: Complete the submission process for a final peer-reviewed manuscript that the publisher has deposited in the NIH Manuscript Submission System.

Author Self-Submit or Third Party Submit (Method C)

Authors can self-submit via NIHMS using the eRA Commons account logon route.

The author can also designate a third party (assistant, library, etc.) to handle submissions on their behalf under Submission Method C. Third party submissions should be submitted via NIHMS using the MyNCBI account logon route. The third party will need to create a MyNCBI Account (free), if necessary.

A NIHMS ID is assigned to the manuscript as soon as it is submitted which can be used to demonstrate compliance.

The designated author is required to complete two NIHMS tasks (approve PDF deposit and approve the web version for PMC) in order for a PMCID to be assigned to the manuscript.

NIHMS will send multiple email reminders to the designated author if emails are unanswered. Timely completion of the approval process will help ensure that a PMCID is assigned to the applicable paper. A PMCID is required for demonstration of compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy for papers three months post publication.

Further Resources:

    Step Four: Demonstrate Compliance

    For papers published more than 3 months before an application, proposal and report is submitted:

    List the PubMed Central reference number (PMCID) at the end of the full journal citation for the paper in NIH applications, proposals and reports.  A PMCID is the only way to demonstrate compliance for these papers.  

    For papers in press, or published within 3 months of when an application, proposal or report is submitted:


    PubMed Central (PMC)PMC is the NIH digital archive of full-text, peer-reviewed journal papers. These papers are indexed with a PMCID, a series of numbers preceded by ‘PMC’.

    PubMedPubMed provides access to citations from biomedical literature.  It includes over 17 million citations from MEDLINE and other life science journals for biomedical articles back to the 1950s, along with links to full text articles and other scientific resources.  These citations are indexed with a PMID number which is different from PMCID number. PMID number can not be used for public access policy purpose.

    NIHMS: The NIH Manuscript Submission allows you to submit an electronic version of your peer-reviewed final manuscript for inclusion in PubMed Central.

    NIHMS ID: The NIHMS ID is assigned when a manuscript via Method C and Method D is submitted to NIHMS in preparation for posting to PMC. The NIHMS ID is used as a temporary number until a PMCID reference number is assigned.

    Final peer-reviewed manuscript: The author's final manuscript of a peer-reviewed paper accepted for journal publication, including all modifications from the peer review process.

    Final published article:  The journal’s authoritative copy of the paper, including all modifications from the publishing peer review process, copyediting and stylistic edits, and formatting changes.

    NIH Notices Related to the Public Access Policy

    • Aug 12, 2009, ( NOT-OD-09-136) Clarification on the Use of an NIHMSID to Indicate Compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy
    • Mar 19, 2009, ( NOT-OD-09-070) Notice of Legislative Mandates in Effect for FY 2009
    • Sept 23, 2008, ( NOT-OD-08-119) Reminder Concerning Grantee Compliance with Public Access Policy and Related NIH Monitoring Activities
    • Jan 11, 2008, ( NOT-OD-08-033) Revised Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research

    More Resources

    Public Access Policy FAQs
    NIH site that answers more than 50 questions regarding the policy and ways to comply.

    Public Access Training(PowerPoint - 701 KB)
    NIH training tool that outlines the policy and compliance procedures.

    PubMed Central FAQs
    Explains PubMed Central and its connection to PubMed.

    Email assistance from NIH: