NIH Public Access Policy FAQ

IMPORTANT: The NIH Public Access Policy requires authors to submit peer-reviewed articles that have been accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008. Authors do not have to submit articles that are already published. The policy applies to those who receive NIH funds after October 1, 2007.

This FAQ was adapted for CPC from information on NIH’s Public Access Policy websites linked from and PubMed Central’s FAQ at

If you have questions about the NIH Policy, contact CPC Library staff by visiting the library in 302 University Square East, e-mailing, or phoning the reference desk at (919) 962-3081.

What is the NIH Public Access Policy?

The Public Access Policy ensures that the public has access to the published results of NIH funded research. It requires scientists to submit journal articles that arise from NIH funds to the digital archive PubMed Central ( The Policy requires that these articles be accessible to the public on PubMed Central to help advance science and improve human health.

The text of the mandate that is now U.S. law says:

"The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central 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."

See the NIH Guide Notice for Public Access (January 11, 2008) 

What is PubMed Central (PMC)?

PMC is the NIH’s digital repository of full-text, peer-reviewed biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research journals. It is a publicly-accessible, permanent, and searchable electronic archive available on the Internet at:

Which publications am I required to submit to PubMed Central?

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.

Which publications should I not submit to PubMed Central?

This policy does not apply to book chapters, editorials, reviews, or conference proceedings. Also, publications resulting from non-NIH-supported research projects should not be submitted.

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

Yes. The NIH Public Access Policy applies to all peer-reviewed journal articles that arise from the NIH intramural program or any amount of direct costs funded by NIH, regardless of the source or amount of other funding.

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.

Is the NIH Public Access Policy a condition of award?

The NIH Public Access Policy is a Term and Condition of Award for all grants and cooperative agreements active in Fiscal Year 2008 (October 1, 2007- September 30, 2008) or beyond, and for all contracts awarded after April 7, 2008.

Will compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy affect the outcome of the application review?

Compliance with the Public Access Policy is not a factor in the evaluation of grant applications. Non-compliance will be addressed administratively, and may delay or prevent awarding of funds.

How do I submit a manuscript?

Use the NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS) available at The process includes the following steps: (1) Log In, (2) Upload Manuscript, (3) PDF Receipt Approval and Processing, and (4) Approval of the Converted Manuscript (Web Version).

Submitting a manuscript can be done in a number of ways:

a. You or someone in your organization (e.g., an assistant or your library) may deposit a copy of the peer reviewed manuscript in the NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system (

b. Your publisher may send the peer-reviewed manuscript files to the NIH Manuscript Submission system for you.

In both cases above (a and b), you still will have to verify and approve the manuscript personally via the NIH Manuscript Submission system, which will send you an email message requesting this action. See FAQ on using NIHMS.

c. Some publishers have agreed to make the final published article of every NIH-funded article publicly available in PubMed Central within 12 months of publication (see FAQ on journals that deposit articles). For these journals, you do not need to do anything to fulfill the submission requirement of the NIH Public Access Policy. See for a list of these journals.

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

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. 

Can NIH provide language that could be used in a copyright agreement between an author or institution and a publisher?

NIH can provide an example. Individual copyright arrangements can take many forms, and authors and their institutions should continue to manage such arrangements as they have in the past. However, in order to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy, you must make sure that the agreement allows the accepted peer-reviewed manuscript to be deposited with the NIH upon acceptance of publication and made available for public posting on PubMed Central no later than 12 months after journal publication.

Institutions and investigators may wish to develop particular copyright agreement terms in consultation with their own legal counsel or other applicable official at their institution, as appropriate. As an example, the kind of language that an author or institution might add to a copyright agreement includes the following:

"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 PubMed Central as soon as possible but no later than 12 months after publication by Journal."

Your Institution or professional society may have developed specific model language for this purpose, as well.

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.”

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.  

The CPC Library is currently evaluating the process of submitting manuscripts for CPC researchers who receive NIH-funding.

In addition, some publishers automatically submit published articles. See list here.

How long does it take to submit a manuscript?

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

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 (NIHMSID) 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: PMC243493

Zerhouni, EA. (2003) A New Vision for the National Institutes of Health. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology (3), 159–160. PMCID: PMC400215

Will NIH pay for publication costs?

Yes. The NIH will reimburse publication costs, including author fees, for grants and contracts on three conditions: (1) such costs incurred are actual, allowable, and reasonable to advance the objectives of the award; (2) costs are charged consistently regardless of the source of support; (3) all other applicable rules on allowability of costs are met.

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.

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