NIH Public Access Policy Recap

I had to cobble something together for the health sciences faculty here (an intimate group of a few thousand of my closest friends) on how the NIH Public Access Policy actually works, and I thought I’d share the wealth here. Hope this is helpful.

All peer-reviewed articles that arise from work funded in part or in whole by grants or contracts awarded by the NIH must be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication.

This mandatory requirement applies to all grant and cooperative agreements awarded on or after October 1, 2007 and to all contracts awarded on or after April 7, 2008. Principal Investigators are responsible for ensuring compliance with the Policy even if they are not an author or co-author of a publication arising from their NIH-funded work.

Compliance is a three-step process: address copyright when submitting a manuscript to a journal for review, submit the accepted manuscript to the NIH, and cite the manuscript using the PubMed Central reference number.

Address Copyright. As an NIH-funded author, you must ensure that any copyright transfer or other publication agreements allow the article to be submitted to NIH in accordance with the Policy. If you submit your manuscript to a journal that already cooperates with the NIH on this, you need not do anything further to ensure compliance with the Policy.

If you wish to publish in a journal not on this list, you must inform the journal that the article is subject to the Public Access Policy when submitting the manuscript. You must then communicate with the journal before any of your copyrights are transferred to ensure that all conditions of the Public Access Policy can be met. Some journals ask authors to transfer copyrights when a manuscript is submitted for review, so please be careful not to transfer rights during the submission process without confirming the journal’s ability to comply with the Public Access Policy. Please remember that this Policy is mandatory for all NIH grantees, and avoid signing any agreements with publishers that do not allow authors to comply.

Submit Manuscript to NIH. If your journal does not submit the accepted manuscript to the NIH on your behalf, you or your designee can deposit a copy of the peer-reviewed manuscript via the online Manuscript Submission System (tutorial available). The submitted final, peer-reviewed manuscript must include all graphics and supplemental materials that are associated with the article. Please note that not all open-access journals automatically submit manuscripts to the NIH; you are responsible for ensuring your manuscripts are deposited in compliance with the Policy.

Cite PubMed Central Reference Number. Beginning with the May 25, 2008 receipt date, your applications, proposals, and progress reports sent to the NIH must include the PubMed Central (PMCID) or, if the PMCID is not yet available, the NIH Manuscript Submission reference number (NIHMS ID) when citing applicable articles that arise from your NIH-funded research.

You’ll find additional information and details on how to comply with the Policy at:

NIH Public Access Policy Notice

NIH Public Access Policy

NIH Manuscript Submission System

PubMed Central



  1. RGP said

    Thanks very much!! This is very helpful indeed!

  2. drugmonkey said

    PMCID. oh man, we finally get to the “we are the government and we are here to help” part. what, like anyone who cares can’t figure out how to select PMC from the NCBI site?

  3. […] self or otherwise) in a future update of their guidelines. Perhaps the folks involved with the NIH Public Access Policy and PubMedCentral might consider taking a look-see at their own […]

  4. […] of Research Libraries offered a Webcast (viewable via archive) on the recently mandated NIH Public Access Policy. The presentations by Kevin Smith, JD (Scholarly Communications Officer, Duke University), Jim […]

  5. writedit said

    Update: Summary from the NIH Public Meeting: “The NIH received comments from representatives of universities and other NIH grantee organizations, publishers from commercial organizations and professional societies, journal editors, patients, public health advocates and the general public. The NIH received 451 comments in advance of the meeting. Preliminary analysis indicates more than 60% of these pre-meeting comments expressed support of the policy as implemented; approximately 15% said the 12-month delay period was too long; and 15% had concerns that a mandatory policy would be detrimental to scientific publishers.”

    The NIH has issued a formal Request for Information as well.

  6. writedit said

    Update: Nature reports that Open Access has been made permanent at the NIH … at least until John Conyers attempts to slam it shut:

    The annually renewable public-access policy first implemented by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) a year ago was made permanent in a spending bill signed into law on 11 March. The provision specifies that all NIH-funded investigators must submit an electronic version of their peer-reviewed manuscripts to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central. The manuscripts must be made publicly available no later than 12 months after publication.

    The new law specifies that it must be implemented in a manner consistent with copyright law. Congressman John Conyers (Democrat, Michigan) is hoping to use that clause to upend the policy. His Fair Copyright in Research Works Act would amend US copyright law to forbid federal agencies from making funding agreements, such as NIH grants, conditional on authors making copies of their peer-reviewed articles freely available.

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