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NIH Public Access Policy: How Do I Comply?

Guidelines for compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy

Compliance is a three-step process

  1. Address Copyright.
    Before you sign a publication agreement or similar copyright transfer agreement, make sure the agreement allows the paper to be posted to PubMed Central (PMC) in accordance with the NIH Public Access Policy. Final, peer-reviewed manuscripts must be posted to the NIHMS upon acceptance for publication, and may be publicly available on PMC no later than 12 months after the official date of publication. See the sample letter (DOC file) to include with your agreement if you need one. Points to consider:
    • Which submission method will be used? (see #2 below)
    • Which version of the paper will be made available on PMC? The NIH Public Access Policy states that investigators must submit their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts" to PubMed Central. NIH will accept the final published article in lieu of the final peer-reviewed manuscript, provided that the author has the right to submit this version.
    • Who will submit the paper?
    • When will it be submitted?
    • Who will approve the submission?
    • When will the paper be made public on PMC?
  2. Submit the paper to NIH.
    This can be done in a number of ways. See this Submission Methods table from NIH. Note that NIH awardees are responsible for ensuring that manuscripts are submitted to the NIHMS upon acceptance for publication and that all NIHMS tasks are complete within three months of publication. See our Guide to Finding a PMCID (PDF) for help determining the submission method used by your journal and completing the citation.
    • Method A
      Journal deposits final published articles in PubMed Central without author involvement.
      Journals that Submit All NIH Funded Final Published Articles to PMC.
    • Method B
      Author asks publisher to deposit specific final published article in PubMed Central (usually for a fee).
      Publishers that Will Deposit a Specific Final Published Article in PubMed Central on Request
    • Method C
      Deposit the final peer-reviewed manuscript in PMC yourself (either the author or a designee) via the NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS).

      Important:The simplest way to proceed is to set up a myNCBI account and access the NIHMS via your myNCBI account. You will need to register with myNCBI to obtain a login and password.

      To submit the manuscript, you will need the grant number from the Principal Investigator (PI); the manuscript, and any supplemental data (figures and/or tables, etc.); the name of the journal in which the manuscript appears; and the title of the manuscript. Upon submission, the system will generate a receipt of the uploaded files in the PDF format. Submitters confirm that the documents have been successfully received by NIHMS and a NIHMS ID number is issued. Then there are several review and approval steps, by the author or PI, for initial approvals and to designate the number of months after publication when the manuscript may be made publicly available in PMC. Within a couple of weeks, a PMCID (PubMed Central ID) is assigned and emailed to the author and the PI.

      Near the time when the article is about to be published, the author receives another e-mail requesting final approval of the document. Prior to this time, the PMCID can be viewed in PubMed Central. PMC will automatically make the paper available at the appropriate time.

    • Method D
      Complete the submission process for a final peer-reviewed manuscript that the publisher has deposited in the NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS). These methods vary in the version of the paper submitted, and the actions undertaken by the author and publisher.
  3. Cite.
    Include the PMC number (PMCID) for papers that were authored or co-authored by you or arose from your NIH award when citing in applications, proposals, and progress reports, as described in NIH instructions.
    Important: Please note that a PubMed ID number (PMID) is not a PubMed Central number (PMCID).


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