NIH Public Access Policy: Details for MIT Authors

Pub Med CentralOn January 11, 2008, the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) adopted a revised—and now mandatory—Public Access Policy that requires all NIH-funded investigators to submit their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts to the NIH’s PubMed Central (PMC) database (the digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature) upon acceptance for journal publication.Compliance with the policy is a term and condition of all grants and cooperative agreements active in Fiscal Year 2008 or beyond, and for all contracts awarded after April 7, 2008.

The new policy implements a Congressional statutory directive under which:

The Director of the [NIH] shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to [PMC] an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.

NIH has now revised its home page, FAQ, and Public Access Policy, describing the new mandatory submission process.

An overview for members of the MIT community who receive funds from NIH:

Step-by-Step Guide for Complying With the NIH Public Access Policy

In addition to the summary below of the main aspects of the policy, there is a step-by-step overview of the actions authors need to take in order to comply.

Timing and Grants Affected

  • The policy applies to all peer-reviewed journal articles that are accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008.
  • The policy applies to articles based on work funded by an NIH grant or cooperative agreement active in FY08 (10/1/07-9/30/08) or beyond; and articles based on work funded by an NIH contract signed on or after April 7, 2008.
  • Principal Investigators and their institutions are responsible for ensuring that articles that arise directly from their awards, even if the PI is not an author or co-author, are submitted to PubMed Central in accordance with the policy.

Publisher Agreements and Copyright

  • It is essential for authors to ensure that any publication agreement they sign allows the final, peer-reviewed manuscript to be submitted to PubMed Central in accordance with the policy.
  • From the NIH FAQ: “Authors should avoid signing any agreements with publishers that do not allow the author to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.”
  • If a journal presents an author with a copyright transfer agreement, the author should not sign it if it does not allow the author to submit the final, peer-reviewed manuscript to PubMed Central within 12 months of the publication date.
  • Authors should attach an amendment to the publisher’s transfer agreement that will allow them to comply with NIH requirements.
    • See the Step-by-Step Guide for details.
    • Download a grid(PDF) summarizing key publishers’ practices in relation to the NIH policy.
    • Authors may also want to read the article PubMed Central Deposit and Author Rights, which offers an overview of 12 publishers’ agreements in terms of the NIH policy and related author rights (accurate as of 8/8/08; please note, publisher policies do change over time).

Submitting to PubMed Central

  • Submitting to PMC is required even if you publish in an open access journal, or if the article is freely accessible on the publisher’s website.
  • The author’s requirements related to submission depend on which journal the author is publishing in: See the Step-by-Step Guide for details.

PubMed Central Reference Numbers

  • Authors and PIs should be begin collecting PubMed Central reference numbers as well as NIH Manuscript Submission System reference numbers as proof of deposit. As of May 25, 2008, these numbers will be required in all progress reports, proposals, and grant applications when citing papers that arose from your NIH award.
  • NIH Manuscript Submission System Reference numbers (NIHMS IDs) will be supplied to authors via email from the NIHMS system, when they are asked to approve the submission and release of the manuscript. These will be important to use as references prior to the point that the article appears publicly in PMC. The NIHMS ID may be used only for the first three months after a paper is published. After that, the PubMed Central reference number (PMCID) must be used.
    • If the publisher partners with PMC, no NIHMS ID will be created. Authors should instead reference the PMCID, but this will be available only if the article is publicly visible in PMC (see next bullet). For articles that are not yet available in PMC, but which are published by partner publishers or submitted by the publisher on the author’s behalf, authors may indicate “PMC Journal – In Process.”
    • PubMedCentral now lets authors search for articles that are hidden from public view, which makes it easier to find these papers right after publication and during the up to 12 months they are not shared openly. See below for information on performing a search to find hidden articles.
  • PubMedCentral Reference Numbers (PMCIDs) can be found in three ways:
    • By searching PubMed and looking at the end of the abstract.
    • By searching PubMed Central and looking at the end of the citation, if the article is publicly available.
    • By searching PubMed Central and looking near the top of the fulltext of the article, if the article is publicly available. For articles that are not yet publicly available, go to PubMedCentral, and on the Limits tab, and set the option in the first box.
    • NIH also offers a tool to convert PMCIDs into PMIDs and vice versa.

Publication Costs

  • NIH will allow PIs to pay open access publication costs from grant funds, though NIH is not budgeting additional funds for this purpose.
  • See the Step-by-Step Guide for details.

Compliance Flowchart


For further information please contact:

Ellen Finnie Duranceau / Program Manager, Scholarly Publishing & Licensing / MIT Libraries / x38483 / efinnie@mit.edu