NIH Public Access Policy


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 PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication. To help advance science and improve human health, the Policy requires that these papers are accessible to the public on PubMed Central no later than twelve months after publication.


This policy applies to peer reviewed articles that arise in whole or part from direct costs funded by NIH (FY 2008 and beyond) that were accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008.

The NIH Public Access Policy also requires that, as of August 21, 2009, NIH applications, proposals and progress reports must include the PubMed Central reference number (PMCID) or the NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) reference number when citing an article that falls under the policy and is authored or co-authored by the investigator, or arose from the investigator’s NIH award, even if the investigator is not an author. A PMCID is required for applicable journal articles three months post-publication

Compliance with this Policy is 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.

Compliance with the Public Access Policy is not a factor in the evaluation of grant applications. However, NIH has been delaying the processing of non-competing continuation grant awards, and has issued awards that restrict ALL spending, if publications arising from that award are not in compliance.

Decision Making Flow Chart 

How to Comply

There are four different submission methods to ensure compliance with the NIH Policy. These submission methods are based on journal policies of NIH-funded authors.  NIH-funded authors are highly encouraged to clarify the submission method of journals before submitting a manuscript for peer review.

Submission Methods

  • Method A - Journal deposits final published articles in PubMed Central without author involvement
  • Method B - Author asks publisher to deposit specific final published article in PMC
  • Method C  - Author deposits final peer-reviewed manuscript in PMC via the NIHMS
  • Method D  - Author completes submission of final peer-reviewed manuscript deposited by publisher in the NIHMS. Authors and awardees are responsible for ensuring that the manuscript is deposited into the NIHMS upon acceptance for publication.

All of your papers that fall under the NIH Public Access Policy, whether in press or in print, must include evidence of compliance in all of your NIH applications and reports.

  1. Determine Applicability
    Does the NIH Public Access Policy apply to your paper?
  2. Address Copyright
    Ensure your publishing agreement allows the paper to be posted to PubMed Central in accordance with the NIH Public Access Policy.
  3. Submit Paper
    Submit papers to PubMed Central and approve public release.
  4. Include PMCID in Citations
    Include the PMCID at the end of the full citation in your application or report.

How to Cite

A.    For non-competing continuation awards, use My NCBI to report papers:

  1. Create a Commons linked My NCBI account.  A video overview is available.
  2. Collaborate with your colleagues to associate publications with NIH awards, and track public access compliance.  A video overview is available.
  3. Report your papers via the RPPR, or generate a PDF report for the publications section of the PHS 2590.

B.     Everywhere else you wish to cite papers you author or arise from your funding, and are subject to the public access policy:

  1. Include the PubMed Central reference number (PMCID) at the end of citations.

For papers published more than 3 months before an application, proposal and report is submitted:

  • List the PubMed Central reference number (PMCID) at the end of the full journal citation for the paper in NIH applications, proposals and reports.  A PMCID is the only way to demonstrate compliance for these papers.  

For papers in press, or published within 3 months of when an application, proposal or report is submitted:

  • When using Submission Method A or B, indicate "PMC Journal - In Process" or the PMCID at the end of the full citation.
  • When using Submission Method C or D, provide a valid NIH Manuscript Submission System reference number (NIHMSID) or PMCID at the end of the full citation. Note:  NIH awardees are responsible for ensuring that all steps of the NIHMS submission process are complete within three months of publication.

Place the Literature Citations in the appropriate location.

The appropriate locations for literature citations vary depending on the application type.  See the Guide Notice NOT-OD-08-119 for details.

Updating Bibliographies

The My Bibliography tool of My NCBI can be used to manage NIH Public Access Policy compliance. Once all publications are entered into My Bibliography, compliance status for each publication is automatically updated and can be managed by the investigator or their delegate. 

  1. Create a My NCBI account and link it to your eRA Commons account to activate your My Bibliography account.  Investigators are highly encouraged to assign a delegate to manage their My Bibliography account.
  2. Enter all publications associated with your name and grants (even if you are not an author) into My Bibliography. 
  3. Determine whether the publications are applicable under the NIH Policy and if they are in compliance. Take steps to bring non-compliant publications into compliance.

My NCBI instructions for using the My Bibliography tool: How to use My Bibliography

My Bibliography overview video

MUSC’s OCIO has EndNote software available for MUSC employees to download & use.

Instructions for exporting citations into a reference management program, from PubMed FAQs

To export citations into a reference management program such as EndNote, Reference Manager, and ProCite:

  1. In your search results, use the citation check boxes to select citations. To export all the citations do not select any citations.
  2. From Send to, select File.
  3. Select MEDLINE from the Format menu.
  4. Import this saved file into your reference management program.

Questions regarding these commercial software packages should be directed to the respective companies.

Concerned about Copyright?

The NIH Public Access Policy does not affect the ability of the author, the author's institution, or the publisher to assert ownership in the work's copyright. Authors, consistent with their employment arrangements, may assign these rights to journals (as is the current practice), subject to the limited right that must be retained by the funding recipient to post the works in accordance with the Policy, or the provision that the journal submits the works in accordance with the Policy on the author's behalf.

Sample language for inclusion in article submission letter from PI to journal?

“This manuscript is supported in part/full with funds provided by the National Institutes of Health, and therefore is subject to the NIH Public Access Policy. Should this be accepted for publication, I am responsible for submitting the final, peer-reviewed manuscript to the PubMed Central repository upon acceptance. This will not affect the publisher’s ability to assert ownership in the work's copyright.”

Upon acceptance for publication, the investigator should carefully review the publisher’s copyright transfer or publication agreement to make sure it specifically allows for deposit of the final peer-reviewed manuscript in PMC. If it does not, the investigator should attach an author addendum. MUSC has developed an addendum for this purpose.

A delay period can be registered in the NIHMS system by the manuscript's PI. The delay period is the interval between a manuscript's final publication date and when the author-supplied version will appear publicly in PubMed Central. NIH strongly encourages authors to post for public accessibility as soon as possible (and within twelve months of the publisher's official date of final publication). NIH expects that only in limited cases will authors deem it necessary to select the longest delay period.

Reference Links

NIH Public Access Policy Web Page

NIH Public Access Policy FAQs

NIH Public Access Policy Training/Communications

NOT-OD-15-091 Clarifying Publication Reporting Instructions for Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPR) and Renewal Applications

NOT-OD-15-090  Reporting Publications in the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR)

NOT-OD-13-042  Changes to Public Access Policy Compliance Efforts Apply to All Awards with Anticipated Start Dates on or after July 1, 2013

NOT-OD-10-103 My NCBI Tool to Replace eRA Commons for Bibliography Management

NOT-OD-09-136 Clarification on the Use of an NIHMSID to Indicate Compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy

NOT-OD-08-033 Revised Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research