What is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) new Public Access Mandate?


In accordance with Division G, Title II, Section 218 of PL 110-161 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 ), the NIH voluntary Public Access Policy (NOT-OD-05-022) is now mandatory. The law states:

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.


1. The NIH Public Access Policy applies to all peer-reviewed articles that arise, in whole or in part, from direct costs (costs that can be specifically identified with a particular project or activity) funded by NIH, or from NIH staff, that are accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008.

2. Institutions and investigators are responsible for ensuring that any publishing or copyright agreements concerning submitted articles fully comply with this Policy.

3. PubMed Central (PMC) is the NIH digital archive of full-text, peer-reviewed journal articles. Its content is publicly accessible and integrated with other databases.

4. The final, peer-reviewed manuscript includes all graphics and supplemental materials that are associated with the article.

5. Beginning May 25, 2008, anyone submitting an application, proposal or progress report to the NIH must include the PMC or NIH manuscript submission reference number when citing applicable articles that arise from their NIH funded research. This policy includes applications submitted to the NIH for the May 25, 2008 due date and subsequent due dates.


Compliance with this Policy is a statutory requirement and a term and condition of the grant award and cooperative agreement, in accordance with the NIH Grants Policy Statement For contracts, NIH includes this requirement in all R&D solicitations and awards under Section H, Special Contract Requirements, in accordance with the Uniform Contract Format (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-08-033.html).

What do I need to do?

  • You must make sure to retain the non-exclusive right to provide a copy of your final manuscript (that reports research funded in part or in whole by an NIH grant) to the NIH for public access in PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication.

Start by:

  • Attaching a letter to your manuscript when you send it to a publisher for consideration. The letter should include a paragraph like this one:

The research reported in this manuscript was funded in whole or in part by NIH funding and is subject to the NIH public access policy, Division G, Title II, Section 218 of PL 110-161 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008). I will retain non-exclusive rights in this manuscript that allow the final manuscript to be submitted to the NIH upon acceptance for publication, including all modifications from the publishing and peer review process, to be made available to the public in PubMed Central as soon as possible but no later than 12 months after publication.

A large number of publishers permit some type of public access posting (you can see the growing number of internet-friendly publishers on the SHERPA/RoMEO site) and of those, many will deposit your article in PubMed Central for you.

As you enter into contract:

  • Check this NIH list to see if your journal publisher automatically submits articles to PubMed Central. If you find your publisher on this list, you do not have to submit the article yourself, however you will want the publisher to agree to the submission in writing. The NIH will notify you after the article has been submitted to ask for associated award information and to give you a chance to review and approve the article.
  • If you would like to set an embargo period, you should make that part of your contract. For example, if you would like to wait 8 months before your article goes to open access, you may--just as long as your embargo period is not greater than 12 months. It is especially prudent to include your embargo wording in contracts with publishers who submit your article for you.

Follow up:

  • Look at your contract before you sign it.
  • Make sure you have retained the rights to submit your article to NIH/PubMed within the 12 month time line. NIH suggests wording similar to this:

(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.

  • Make sure you have retained your other rights too. Do you have the right to post your article to Wes Scholar, the Wesleyan University repository? Do you have the right to place your article in another professional repository? Do you have the right to place your article on your own Web site? Do you have the right to make photocopies for your students?
  • Sign your contract only when you are satisfied with the rights that you have retained.

How do I submit my article to PubMed Central?

The NIH offers slide show tutorials covering every aspect of submission.

  • You must use the NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system to submit an article. You can create a new account or log in to NIH to begin the submission process.
  • Deposit the final manuscript files in the NIHMS.
  • Indicate the NIH award(s) to which the article is related.
  • After the NIHMS converts your deposited files to a standard PubMed Central (PMC) format, NIHMS will send you an e-mail asking that you review the PMC formatted article and approve its release.
  • Make sure that the article includes a copyright statement compatible with the agreement that you made with your publisher. All articles in PubMed Central are copyright protected. PubMed's copyright policy can be found here.
  • Some journals will deposit the manuscript files for you. In that case, you still have to provide the associated award information, and review and approve the article and copyright policy. The NIHMS will notify you via e-mail when these actions are needed.
  • The NIH Web site is clear and informative, and includes a very helpful library ofFAQs.


Do I have to comply with this mandate?


Noncompliance could jeopardize NIH grants for individuals and institutions. When you apply for future funding you must provide the PMC or NIH manuscript submission reference numbers for previously published NIH funded research.

For assistance

Send questions concerning this Mandate or other aspects of the NIH Public Access Policy to the Office of Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health, PublicAccess@nih.gov

For question on authors' rights and NIH, contact Helen Aiello, Serials/E-Resources Librarian, haiello@wesleyan.edu ext. 3828
For questions on authors' rights, contact Kevin Wiliarty, Academic Computing Manager for Social Sciences, kwiliarty@wesleyan.edu

For More Information

Check NIH's "Open Access Frequently Asked Questions,"http://publicaccess.nih.gov/FAQ.htm#e1
Sherpa/Romeo keeps a searchable database summarizing publishers' copyright policies. 
Create Change is a Web site devoted to sharing research on the internet.
Open Access News, News from the open access movement offers more discussion 
UCONN's NIH policy Web page is a helpful resource too.