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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Guide to the NIH Public Access Mandate: 2: Submitting your paper

Researchers funded by the NIH must, at the time they submit articles for publication, also submit the article to PubMed Central for public access. This Guide explains the steps for doing this.

Submitting your Article -- An overview

Where to start:

NIH Manuscript Submission System:

What you will need:

  • An electronic copy of the final version of all the files that were submitted to the publisher -- e.g., the main Word document, the files with the tables, charts, etc. Please note that this should be the final, peer-reviewed version of the paper.
  • The name of the journal and the title of the article
  • The name of the Principal Investigator (PI) for the grant and the grant number
  • The ability to log in to the eRA Commons site, either as the PI or as a surrogate.


The PI will receive an email requesting that they verify the content of the single file that has been rendered by the PubMed Central system. The PI will want to make note of the file number of their article for future reference.

Ask a Librarian

Submitting your Article -- Step by Step

After determining that you have the right to submit your paper (see Step 1, Copyright Considerations), you may submit your paper via the NIH Manuscript Submission System.

Here's a snapshot of the process for Principal Investigators:

  1. Go to the NIH Manuscript Submission System:
  2. Log in via your eRA Commons login and password (PIs should already be familiar with this sytem)
  3. Provide the journal name and the title of the article
  4. Select the appropriate NIH grant number from a list of your NIH grants that will be presented
  5. Now you're ready to start uploading files to the system. You will load a copy of the last post-review version of your paper, as well as any tables, figures, etc. Anything that was sent to the publisher! You will need to identify whether the file is for Figure 1, Table 3, etc.
  6. The system will generate a multipage pdf with all the files that were submitted, collated together.
  7. Verify everything was done right, and set the embargo period (no embargo, 6 months, 12 months....)
  8. Later the Principal Investigator will get an email, asking them to verify that the web version (XML standardized format) that was created by the NIH Manuscript Submission System is correct. The PI will need to review this document, and submit any corrections that may be needed.

Non-Principle Investigator Submissions

Someone other than the Principal investigator can take care of steps 1-7, above. This may be a lab assistant, a secretary, or other designated person. The Library is willing to do this for you, too (see "Let Us Help You").

  • The surrogate will login via a MyNCBI account, rather than through the eRA Commons account. (Register for a MyNCBI account.)
  • The surrogate will need to have all the necessary information -- journal title, article title, grant number, PI's name. And will also need the necessary files and the identity of the files (Step 5, above).
  • The Principal Investigator will still be responsible for signing off on the final version of the article (Step #8, above).

Online Tutorials for the Process

The NIH has created a video tutorial to help the Prinicple Investigator or the non-PI (3rd party assistants) submit materials to PubMed Central. These tutorials offer step by step snapshots of the entire submission process. 

Submitting the author's final, peer-reviewed version of the paper to the PubMed Central system. (12 minutes)

Approving Submission of an Article to PubMed Central  (6 minutes)

Public Access Training (step by step Powerpoint presentation (30 slides)

Additional training from the NIH Public Access group.

The tutorials do not address any copyright considerations, but rather assume that the author has made the determination that they have the right to submit the paper.

Subject Guide

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Biology Librarian
Biosciences Librarian: Kelli Trei, Liaison to the Schools of Life Sciences in LAS: Molecular & Cellular Biology, Integrative Biology, and the Carl R. Woese Institute of Genomic Biology

Funk ACES Library, 1101 S. Goodwin Ave., M/C 633
Urbana, IL 61801
Subjects: Biology