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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Guide to the NIH Public Access Mandate: FAQ

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.

What is the NIH Public Access Policy? The Mandate

The NIH Public Access Policy implements a provision of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (Division G, Title II, Section 218 of PL 110-161), passed by the U.S. Congress in December, 2008, which 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. 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."

What is PubMed Central?

PubMed Central (PMC) is an archive of full-text biomedical journal articles available online without a fee. Articles collected under the Public Access Policy are archived on PubMed Central. PubMed Central articles contain links to other scientific databases such as GenBank and PubChem, and are discoverable from resources such as PubMed and Google Scholar.  More information about PubMed Central is available in their PMC FAQ's.

Ask a Librarian

Does this policy apply to me?

The Policy applies to you if your peer-reviewed article is based on work directly funded by an NIH grant or cooperative agreement active in Fiscal Year 2008 (October 1, 2007- September 30, 2008) or beyond.

Although the policy became effective April 7th, 2008, you may post articles to PubMed Central that were published prior to that date if you have the appropriate copyright permission (see Step 1, Copyright Considerations).

Principal Investigators (PIs) are responsible for making sure that papers that result from their NIH grants are submitted to PubMed Central. This is true even if the PI is not an author on the paper.

Note: Many publishers are depositing papers into PubMed Central FOR their authors. Here's a list of Journals That Submit Articles To PubMed Central. If your journal is on this list, you do not need to do anything further. But please refer to the Public Access FAQ for additional information.

What are the consequences of NOT submitting my papers?

According to the NIH Public Access FAQ:

"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."

Furthermore, as of May 25, 2008, Principle Investigators (PIs) submitting grant applications or progress reports that cite previous published works that fell within the Policy timelines must include the PubMed Central reference number (PMCID).

If the PI has not submitted their articles to PubMed Central, they will not have the PMCID, and thus put in jeopady obtaining their next NIH grant.

What should I submit?

You should submit all the post peer-reviewed files that you submitted to the publisher. This will generally include a text file and several files of tables, figures, etc. The author's final manuscript should be submitted to the PubMed Central system at the same time that it is sent to the publisher for final formatting and copy editing. 

In most cases you will NOT be allowed to submit the final publisher's PDF of your paper.

Do you have more questions?

Some Resources for you to check:

NIH Public Access website

NIH Frequently Asked Questions

Submission Process

Journals that Submit Articles to PubMed Central for Their Authors

NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system

Here's where you start the submission process!

Training Materials from the NIH

Powerpoints and other communications to guide you through the process.

Online tutorials for the process

Step by step screen shots to help the Prinicple Investigator or the non-PI (3rd party assistants) submit materials to PubMed Central

Help from the NIH:

Local Assistance:

Dan Tracy

Head, Scholarly Communication & Publishing


Ayla Stein Kenfield

Repository Services Librarian


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