Home | UC Berkeley Library Web | UC Berkeley

Search this site:   Help

NIH Public Access Policy Guide

The NIH Public Access Policy ensures that the public has access to the published results of NIH funded research. It requires scientists to submit final peer reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the digital archive PMC (PubMed Central) upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication. Recent changes to the public access policy reporting requirements means funding delays for grant awards that are not in compliance with the policy.
» NIH Public Access Policy (opens in a new browser window)

It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator and his/her institution (not the journal) to comply. This brief guide will help you determine if the NIH Public Access Policy applies to your article and, if so, how to comply with the policy.

Does the NIH Public Access Policy Apply to My Article?

There are four criteria to consider: (see also this note about journals that will take care of the entire process for you)

  1. Was NIH money used in the research about which I am writing?

    No, STOP: The NIH Public Access Policy does NOT apply to your article.
    Yes, Go to Question 2.

  2. What is the date of the NIH grant, cooperative agreement, or contract?

    Use the table below to help determine if the NIH Public Access Policy applies to your article:

    Funding Mechanism Fiscal Year Date of Publication Acceptance Compliance Required?
    Manuscript generated by NIH grant or cooperative agreement 2008 (or beyond) On or after April 7, 2008 Yes
    Manuscript generated by continuing NIH grant or cooperative agreement 2008 (or beyond) On or after April 7, 2008 Yes
    Manuscript generated by NIH grant or cooperative agreement 2008 (or beyond) Before April 7, 2008 No
    Manuscript generated by continuing NIH grant or cooperative agreement 2008 (or beyond) Before April 7, 2008 No
    Manuscript generated by NIH grant or cooperative agreement 2007 (or earlier) and no longer active N/A No
    Manuscript generated by NIH contract Awarded on or after April 7, 2008 N/A Yes
    Manuscript generated by NIH contract Awarded prior to April 7, 2008 N/A No

    If the manuscript was generated by an NIH grant or cooperative agreement during FY 2008 (or beyond), and the manuscript was accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008: compliance is required.

    If the manuscript was generated by a continuing NIH grant or cooperative agreement during FY 2008 (or beyond), and the manuscript was accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008: compliance is required.

    If the manuscript was generated by an NIH grant or cooperative agreement during FY 2008 (or beyond), but the manuscript was accepted for publication before April 7, 2008: compliance is not required.

    If the manuscript was generated by a continuing NIH grant or cooperative agreement during FY 2008 (or beyond), but the manuscript was accepted for publication before April 7, 2008: compliance is not required.

    If the manuscript was generated by an NIH grant or cooperative agreement during FY 2007 (or earlier) and is no longer active: compliance is not required.

    If the manuscript was generated by an NIH contract and awarded on or after April 7, 2008: compliance is required.

    If the manuscript was generated by an NIH contract and awarded prior to April 7, 2008: compliance is not required.

    Useful Definitions

    NIH Grant: Financial assistance mechanism providing money, property, or both to an eligible entity to carry out an approved project or activity. A grant is used whenever the NIH Institute or Center anticipates no substantial programmatic involvement with the recipient during performance of the financially assisted activities.

    NIH Cooperative Agreement: A support mechanism used when there will be substantial Federal scientific or programmatic involvement. Substantial involvement means that, after award, scientific or program staff will assist, guide, coordinate, or participate in project activities.

    NIH Contract: An award instrument establishing a binding legal procurement relationship between NIH and a recipient obligating the latter to furnish a product or service defined in detail by NIH and binding the Institute to pay for it.

    Manuscript: The Investigator's final manuscript of a peer reviewed article accepted for journal publication, including all modifications from the peer review process. The term "article" is used as a generic reference to all peer reviewed publications including research reports, reviews, etc.

  3. When was my article accepted for publication?

    BEFORE April 7 2008, STOP: The NIH Public Access Policy does NOT apply to your article
    ON OR AFTER April 7 2008, see above. If NIH funding was used in your research, then compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy is required.

  4. What kind of article is it?

    Peer reviewed article, YES: The NIH Public Access Policy applies to all peer reviewed journal manuscripts.
    Non-peer reviewed items, NO: The Policy does not apply to editorials, correspondence, book chapters, or other non-peer reviewed items.

Go to Contents

How Do I Comply?

If you are publishing in one of these journals, they will take care of the whole process. You do not need to take any action in order to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.

If you are publishing in any other journal, the compliance process involves 3 steps:

  1. Address copyright
  2. Submit the article to NIH
  3. Cite your article using the PMC reference number (PMCID)

Step 1: Address copyright

Addressing copyright is key. Before you sign a publication agreement or similar copyright transfer agreement, make sure the agreement allows the peer reviewed manuscript to be submitted to NIH and deposited in PMC (PubMed Central) according to the stipulations of the NIH Public Access Policy.

If the agreement does not allow deposit to PMC, take both of the following steps:

  1. Modify the publisher's copyright transfer agreement to retain the right to make the article available in PMC by signing and attaching this NIH Addendum form (PDF; opens in a new browser window), or by inserting the following language into the agreement:

    "Journal acknowledges that Author retains the right to provide a copy of the final manuscript to the NIH upon acceptance for Journal publication, for public archiving in PMC as soon as possible but no later than 12 months after publication by Journal."

  2. When submitting manuscripts for possible publication, attach this letter (PDF; opens in a new browser window) from William Tucker, Executive Director of UC's Research Administration and Technology Transfer. This letter gives notice to publishers that, if accepted for publication, the article will be required by law to be posted on PMC.

    Attaching the letter does not negate the need to have your copyright transfer agreement include language that allows you to comply with the NIH open access policy (see No. 1, above).

You may be able to negotiate with the publisher for the right to comply with the stipulations of the NIH Public Access Policy.

If the journal will not allow you to modify the copyright transfer agreeement as above, choose a different journal in which to publish. Remember that it is the Principal Investigator's (not the journal's) responsibility to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy. Failure to comply could result in NIH taking enforcement actions such as precluding the grantee from obtaining future awards.

Step 2: Submit the article to NIH

Submitting the article to NIH is easy; there are a few ways this may be done:

  1. Publish in one of these journals; they will take care of the whole submission process. You do not need to take any action in order to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.

  2. The journal's publisher may submit the peer reviewed manuscript to the NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS) for you, which puts the article into PMC.

  3. You or someone in your organization (an assistant, for example) can submit a copy of the final peer reviewed manuscript by logging into the NIHMS (opens in a new window).

  4. More information on what to do if the journal in which you are publishing routinely deposits to PMC may be found at the NIH web site. You need to pay attention to which version of your article is deposited, and when.

Note: In either (b) or (c), above, you still will have to verify and approve the manuscript personally via the NIHMS, which will send you an email message requesting this action.

Step 3: Cite your article using the PMC reference number (PMCID)

As of May 25, 2008, when citing an article in NIH applications, proposals, and progress reports that falls under the NIH Public Access Policy, and was authored or co-authored by you or arose from your NIH award, you must include the PMCID. This policy includes applications submitted to the NIH for the May 25, 2008 due date and subsequent due dates.
» Examples of how to cite using the PMCID are on the NIH web site (opens in a new window)

To find the PMCID for your article, use one of these methods:

» What to do if the PMCID has not been assigned yet (opens in a new window)

Go to Contents

What is the Purpose of the NIH Public Access Policy?

The purpose of the NIH Public Access Policy can be summed up by the "Four A's":

Your work will receive wider exposure and will be cited more often if it is freely available. See Publish to Maximize Impact.

Go to Contents

Where Can I Get Help or More Information?

There are several resources available:

To determine publishers' policies for depositing in PMC: search the SHERPA/RoMEO database and the Open Access Directory (OAD) wiki, Publisher Policies on NIH-funded authors, hosted at Simmons University. Note: These resources should be used as guides only. Publishers may change their policies at any time, and recent revisions may not be reflected on these sites.

UC San Diego's Biomedical Library Compliance Process flow chart (PDF; opens in a new browser window)

NIH: An extensive set of periodically updated FAQs answer the most common questions about the NIH Public Access Policy, including information on the scope of the Policy, compliance details, what and how to submit, and general information. Submission tutorials show step-by-step in a slide show format how to submit via the NIHMS. There are three versions available for each help topic: a hyperlinked HTML display, a QuickTime movie, and a PDF file.

SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) has an NIH Public Access Policy Implementation web site with lots of news and information, including an extensive Resources for Authors page.

Contact the librarians at the Public Health Library for additional assistance on indentifying publishers in your subject area that submit to PMC on your behalf, researching publishers' policies on PMC submissions, locating PMIDs and PMCIDs, and other questions on the NIH Public Access Policy or open access publishing.

Go to Contents

Acknowledgements: Information for this guide was adopted from several sources, including UC San Diego Biomedical Library, UC Irvine Library Scholarly Communication and Management Program, UC San Francisco Library, Bernard Becker Medical Library (Washington University in St. Louis), and National Institutes of Health.

» Public Health Internet Resources


Home UC Berkeley Library Web UC Berkeley Contact Us