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NIH Public Access Policy and You: FAQ

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Does the NIH Public Access Policy apply to me?

The Policy applies to you if your peer-reviewed article is based on work in one or more of the following categories:
  • Directly funded by an NIH grant or cooperative agreement active in Fiscal Year 2008 (October 1, 2007- September 30, 2008) or beyond;
  • Directly funded by a contract signed on or after April 7, 2008;
  • Directly funded by the NIH Intramural Program.
  • If NIH pays your salary. 

Does the Public Access Policy apply to dissertations or book chapters? What about review articles?

The policy only applies to peer-reviewed journal articles.  Books, book chapters, and dissertations are not subject to this policy.  Review articles are not often peer-reviewed, but in cases where the review article is peer-reviewed the policy does apply if it meets the other criteria.  See for a full list of these criteria. The policy does not apply to many review articles and any other journal content e.g. letters to the editor that are not peer-reviewed. 


To what types of articles does the NIH Public Access Policy apply?

The Policy applies to peer-reviewed, original research publications that have been supported in whole or in part with direct costs from NIH. In addition, supplementary files such as graphs, tables, and Excel files can be submitted. This policy does not apply to book chapters, editorials, reviews, or conference proceedings.

I plan to publish in an open access journal. Do I have to submit my final peer-reviewed manuscript?

Yes, unless the journal has an agreement to deposit its papers in PubMed Central.  Not all open-access journals have agreements with PubMed Central.  Check  to see which journals do.

My paper is based on research only partially funded by NIH. Is the paper required to be submitted?

Yes, the Public Access Policy applies to any manuscript that arises from any amount of direct funding from the NIH.

My paper is available on the publisher’s web site. Do I have to submit my final peer-reviewed manuscript?

Yes, you must submit the final peer-reviewed manuscript to PubMed Central. Papers available through publishers’ web sites do not fulfill the authors’ obligations under the NIH Public Access Policy.

Am I responsible for articles that arise from my NIH funded project for which I am not an author?

Principal Investigators and their Institutions are responsible for ensuring all terms and conditions of awards are met. This includes the submission of articles that arise directly from their awards, even if they are not an author or co-author of the publication. Principal Investigators and their Institutions should ensure that the authors are aware of and comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.

What is the difference between PubMed and PubMed Central? If my paper is already listed in PubMed, do I have to submit my final peer-reviewed manuscript?

Yes, you must submit the final peer-reviewed manuscript to PubMed Central. PubMed and PubMed Central are not the same. PubMed includes only citations and abstracts of articles, while PubMed Central carries the full text of the paper.

My paper is based on research funded by NIH but does not fall under the Public Access policy timeframe (e.g., grant or cooperative agreement that expired before Fiscal Year 2008 or an NIH contract awarded before April 7, 2008). May I submit it?

Yes. You are not required to submit it, but if you have appropriate copyright permission, you may.

A Principal Investigator (PI) at our institution inadvertently signed an author agreement with a journal that does not permit submission to PubMed Central. What steps should the PI and the institution take?

The NIH Public Access Policy is a requirement. The PI should work with their institutional official to comply with the Policy.

A publisher says that an NIH-funded paper cannot be deposited under the NIH Public Access Policy. What should I do?

The awardee institution is responsible for meeting the terms and conditions of award, which includes ensuring any agreements with third parties, like a publisher, allow compliance with the NIH public access policy. When necessary, the awardee institution should work directly with the publisher to ensure the paper is posted to PubMed Central (PMC) in accordance with the Policy. To avoid miscommunication, awardees may wish to let publishers know a manuscript is subject to the policy before the publisher decides to review it.

How long does it take to submit a manuscript?

NIH estimates that it takes 3-10 minutes to submit a manuscript.

When should I submit my manuscript?

NIH Policy states that an author should submit their manuscript "upon acceptance for publication. The policy gives authors the flexibility to designate a specific timeframe for public release of the document ranging from immediately after final publication to 12 months later."

Whose approval do I need to submit my final peer-reviewed manuscript to PubMed Central?

Authors own the original copyrights to materials they write. Consistent with individual arrangements with authors' employing institutions, authors often transfer some or all of these rights to the publisher when the journal agrees to publish their paper. Some publishers may ask authors to transfer these rights when the paper is first submitted to the journal. 

Authors should work with the publisher before any rights are transferred to ensure that all conditions of the NIH Public Access Policy can be met. Authors should avoid signing any agreements with publishers that do not allow the author to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.

Government works are not subject to copyright protection in the United States. NIH employees always must submit their final peer-reviewed manuscript to PubMed Central, even if all other authors of the article are not Federal employees.

Can I submit articles accepted for publication prior to April 7, 2008?

Yes. You may submit your article if you want to and have appropriate copyright permission.

Can someone else submit my manuscripts?

Yes, NIHMS allows authors to designate others (graduate students, administrative personnel, librarians) to submit manuscripts. However, the process does require a PI to review and authorize the final submissions.

Is there a list of journals that do the submission for you?

Journals that complete all of the submission steps for you fall under Method A.  A list of Method A journals is available at this link:

Method B journals will deposit a specific article for you, and Method D journals will complete the first submission step only.  Consult the list of Method B publishers and the list of Method D publishers to determine the journal you are publishing in belongs to either of these publisher groups.

How do I get the PMC reference number (PMCID) so I can cite it on my application, proposal, or report?

If you have the DOI, PMID, or Manuscript ID for your paper, you can find the PMCID using NIH's Converter tool. Alternatively, if you add the paper to your My NCBI bibliography, My NCBI will insert the PMCID into the citation as soon as it's been assigned. Note that if you cannot find a PMCID for your paper, it may not have been assigned one yet.

How do I include the PubMed Central reference number in my citations?

List the PubMed Central reference number (PMCID) at the end of the already-required full journal citation for the article. If a PubMed Central reference number is not yet available, include the NIH Manuscript Submission system reference number (NIHMS ID) instead.


Varmus H, Klausner R, Zerhouni E, Acharya T, Daar A, Singer P. 2003. PUBLIC HEALTH: Grand Challenges in Global Health. Science 302(5644): 398-399. PMCID: 243493

Zerhouni, EA. (2003) A New Vision for the National Institutes of Health.Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology (3), 159-160. PMCID: 400215

How does the Public Access Policy differ from the data sharing requirement?

The NIH Public Access Policy and the NIH data sharing policy are separate and distinct policies.

The NIH Public Access Policy applies to peer-reviewed final manuscripts accepted for publication that have resulted from NIH-funded research. The Public Access Policy applies to final manuscripts - not specifically to research data. 

The data sharing policy states that "Data should be made as widely and freely available as possible while safeguarding the privacy of participants and protecting confidential and proprietary data." Each RFA explains the specifics of the data sharing component of the award in more detail.

What are some of the actions NIH may take when investigators and institutions fail to take steps to ensure compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy?

A grantee’s failure to comply with the terms and conditions of award may cause NIH to take one or more enforcement actions, depending on the severity and duration of the non-compliance.  NIH will undertake any such action in accordance with applicable statutes, regulations, and policies.  NIH generally will afford the grantee an opportunity to correct the deficiencies before taking enforcement action unless public health or welfare concerns require immediate action.  However, even if a grantee is taking corrective action, NIH may take proactive action to protect the Federal government’s interests, including placing special conditions on awards or precluding the grantee from obtaining future awards for a specified period, or may take action designed to prevent future non-compliance, such as closer monitoring. See Enforcement Actions in the NIH Grants Policy Statement (11/03).

What are the benefits of posting peer-reviewed papers to PubMed Central?

Once posted to PubMed Central, results of NIH-funded research become more prominent, integrated and accessible, making it easier for all scientists to pursue NIH’s research priority areas competitively. PubMed Central materials are integrated with large NIH research data bases such as Genbank and PubChem, which helps accelerate scientific discovery. Clinicians, patients, educators, and students can better reap the benefits of papers arising from NIH funding by accessing them on PubMed Central at no charge. Finally, the Policy allows NIH to monitor, mine, and develop its portfolio of taxpayer funded research more effectively, and archive its results in perpetuity.

What is PubMed Central?

PubMed Central is an archive of full-text biomedical journal papers available online without a fee.  Papers on PubMed Central contain links to other scientific databases such as GenBank ( and PubChem (  Papers collected under the Public Access Policy are archived on PubMed Central.  More information about PubMed Central is available at

What is the difference between a final peer-reviewed manuscript and final published article?

span style="line-height: 18px;">Final peer-reviewed manuscript: The Investigator's final manuscript of a peer-reviewed article accepted for journal publication, including all modifications from the peer review process.

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

What is the difference between the NIH Public Access Policy and Open Access?

The Public Access Policy ensures that the public has access to the peer-reviewed and published results of all NIH-funded research through PubMed Central (PMC).  United States and/or foreign copyright laws protect most of the papers in PMC; PMC provides access to them at no cost, much like a library does, under the principles of Fair Use. 

Generally, Open Access involves the use of a copyrighted document under a Creative Commons or similar license-type agreement that allows more liberal use (including redistribution) than the traditional principles of Fair Use.  Only a subset of the papers in PMC are available under such Open Access provisions.  See the PMC Copyright page,, for more information.

See the HSL's Open Access guide for more information about publishing in Open Access journals.

What is the relationship between PubMed Central and the NIH Manuscript Submission system?

PubMed Central (PMC) is NIH’s digital journal archive, which gives the public access to papers at no cost.

The NIH Manuscript Submission system (NIHMS) takes in final peer-reviewed manuscripts covered by the NIH Public Access Policy and formats them for inclusion in PMC. You deposit the files for a final peer-reviewed manuscript (e.g., Microsoft Word document and figures) into the NIHMS. The files are converted to a standard PMC format, and then reviewed by you to confirm that the converted final peer-reviewed manuscript is faithful to the original. The NIHMS transfers the final peer-reviewed manuscript to PMC when it is ready to be made available publicly.

What is the NIHMS?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed the NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS) to facilitate the submission process of final, peer-reviewed manuscripts. NIHMS allows users to deposit and manage manuscripts. Manuscripts in a wide range of electronic word-processing formats can be submitted. Any additional files that contain figures, tables, or supplementary information should also be included with the manuscript. No further formatting of the manuscript is necessary beyond that required by the journal that has accepted the article.

In what format must I submit my manuscript?

Users should submit the complete text of their manuscript(s) along with any corresponding image files, table files, and/or supplementary materials that were submitted to the accepting journal. NIHMS supports a wide variety of file types (MS Word, Word Perfect, PDF, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.). Just as required by journals, high-resolution images should be submitted to ensure the best reproduction quality in PubMed Central. With the exception of supplementary materials, PubMed Central will convert the submitted images into standard file types.

Do I have to submit supplemental material?

Supplemental material that has been submitted to the accepting journal in support of the manuscript must be submitted. The NIHMS system has been developed to allow users to indicate supplemental files and upload them in conjunction with other manuscript files.

What is the language of the NIHMS submission statement that I must agree to?

Following is the Submission Statement for NIHMS which must be approved by the Principal Investigator after a manuscript has been submitted:

I am an author of this manuscript, and I am providing it to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to make publicly available in PubMed Central [Embargo Length] after its official date of publication in the journal.

I confirm that:

Publication and Copyright Agreements — In any agreements that I have made with the journal, I have retained the right to deposit this version of the manuscript with PMC, so that it may be appropriately tagged and made available to the public on the PMC web site; or, I otherwise am legally authorized to deposit this manuscript for the purposes described.

Confidentiality — The manuscript may contain confidential information that must not be publicly disclosed prior to publication of the paper in the named journal.

Peer Review — The version I am depositing has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication and includes all modifications resulting from the peer review process.

Funding — The manuscript is the result of research supported, in whole or in part, by direct costs funded by NIH.

How do I track the status of submitted manuscripts?

During the submission process, a PDF Receipt be generated that retains and consolidates all of your manuscript's files for review. The NIHMS system allows users to track the status and progress of manuscripts.

After the submission process is complete, manuscripts will ultimately appear in PubMed Central. PubMed Central will archive and display the manuscripts in three forms: Abstract, online full-text, and PDF.

Who can submit manuscripts to NIHMS?

Manuscript files may be submitted to NIHMS by the author, the publisher, or anyone given access to the author's files (administrative personnel, graduate students, librarians, etc.). Approval of the PDF Receipt and web version of the manuscript requires PI or author review and authorization.

NIHMS accounts will be kept separate between login routes. For this reason, submitters must continue to use the same login method for subsequent visits to NIHMS. For example, manuscripts that are submitted via your NIH login will not be viewable if you were to subsequently log in to NIHMS through an eRA Commons account.

How can I monitor a submission not associated with my account in NIHMS?

To monitor a submission in NIHMS, locate the record in the NIHMS system by either PMID or NIHMS ID using the 'search' function in your NIHMS account. On the resulting page for the manuscript, you can click on the button to 'watch manuscript' to request access to the record. This will send a notification of your request to the current reviewing author assigned to the manuscript. If the reviewing author does not object, you will be granted access in one week's time. Please note that to protect confidentiality, you will be asked to supply the manuscript title and journal information for records not yet matched to a PMID.

How can I take over reviewing author responsibilities for a submission in NIHMS?

If the current reviewing author is unable to perform necessary actions in NIHMS, another author may take over reviewing author duties for the record. If you are already associated with the record, the "Claim Manuscript" button will appear on your view of the manuscript record. Selecting this button and agreeing to the resulting request language will send a notification of your claim to the current reviewing author assigned to the manuscript. The claim request includes the statement "I am an author of this manuscript and I would like to take over reviewing author responsibilities of this submission in NIHMS". If the reviewing author does not act within one week and your account is authorized to act as a reviewing author on this manuscript, you will be able to perform reviewing author duties on the record.

If you are not associated with the record in NIHMS: Submit a request to watch the manuscript (see above) to connect your account to the record, and request to claim the record once the watch request has been approved. If your account is not authorized to act as an author on the paper, NIHMS staff must verify that you are an author or PI.

How long does it take for the PMCID to be assigned once I submit my manuscript?

The submission process is currently estimated at 2-3 weeks once the submission is approved for processing. You can track the status of your submissions at any time in your NIHMS account.