National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy

See also: Compliance with NIH Public Access Policy


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) maintains that public access to and the sharing of "peer-reviewed research publications generated with NIH support will advance science and improve communication of peer-reviewed, health-related information to scientists, health care providers, and the public." (NOT-OD-05-022) To facilitate this widespread dissemination, the NIH implemented the NIH Public Access Policy (Policy) in 2005 with three intended goals:

  1. Create a stable archive of peer-reviewed research publications resulting from NIH-funded research;
  2. Secure a searchable compendium of these peer-reviewed research publications; and
  3. Make these publications more readily accessible to the public, health care providers, educators, and scientists.

In fostering the creation of this archive, the NIH Policy requested that NIH-funded investigators submit to the NIH National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central (PMC) an electronic version of final manuscripts accepted for publication that rely on NIH-funded research. However, on January 11, 2008, pursuant to the Consolidation Appropriations Act of 2008 (Act), the NIH released a revised policy statement (NOT-OD-08-033) which makes compliance with the NIH Policy mandatory. As the Act instructs:

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. (PL 110-61 Div. G, Title II, S 218)

Adherence to this mandate is to occur in the immediate future, and all articles arising from NIH funds that are accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008 must be submitted to PMC upon acceptance. Additionally, beginning on May 25, 2008, all NIH applications, proposals, and progress reports must include the PMC reference number for any cited article that falls under the Policy and is either authored by, or stemming from the NIH award of, the investigator.

This new mandate presents a number of new obligations for NIH-funded investigators and their institutions, and failing to comply with them could have a severe impact on access to future NIH funding.

Meeting the Policy Obligations

  1. Scope of the Policy
    The NIH Policy applies to all peer-reviewed journal articles, including research reports and reviews -- but not including non-peer-reviewed materials such as correspondence, book chapters, and editorials -- that are based on work stemming from one or more of the following criteria:
    1. Work was directly funded by an NIH grant or cooperative agreement active in Fiscal Year 2008;
    2. Work was directly funded by a contract signed on or after April 7, 2008;
    3. Work was directly funded by the NIH Intramural Program; or
    4. The NIH pays the author's salary.

    It is not required that funding for the work come entirely from the NIH, and even projects that are only partially funded by an NIH grant are subject to the policy.

  2. Obtain Copyright Clearance
    As stated in the University of Michigan University Copyright Policy, all faculty own and control scholarly works created at their own initiative with usual University resources. As such, publications stemming from a University investigator's NIH-funded research will typically fall outside of the University's oversight and the controlling publishing agreements will be between only the author and the publisher i.e., the University will not be a party. Thus it is important for the author ensure that the publication agreement allows for a copy of the final, peer-reviewed manuscript to be submitted to PMC. The specifics of these publication agreements can vary widely, but, barring some of the open access journals, they will generally require the author to convey some, if not all, of the author's copyright in the article to the journal.

    Depending on the scope of the rights transferred by agreement, an author could effectively be disallowed from posting their article to PMC, thereby preventing them from complying with the NIH Policy. Therefore, it is important that the author work with the publisher on these issues before any rights transfer occurs.

    In such situations, the author needs to ask the publisher to change the terms of the publication (copyright) agreement to require the publisher to post the manuscript to PMC or to include an addendum to the agreement that will allow the author to post the manuscript to PMC. Since many publisher/author agreements are online, if the terms are not consistent with the requirements of the NIH Policy, the authors may not be able to use these online forms and will need to make direct contact with the prospective publisher. The NIH provides an example of the type of language that could be used to amend a publishing contract:

    "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."

  3. Submit the Article to PMC
    The Policy requires the submission of an electronic copy of the final published article or the final peer-reviewed manuscript to PMC upon acceptance for publication. This is an explicit requirement and other means of providing public access, such as listing the work on PubMed or posting to the publisher's site for free dissemination, are insufficient. Some journals handle this obligation for the author as they deposit finished articles to PMC within the 12 month requirement, thereby requiring no action on the part of the author. The NIH provides a list of these journals. In the case of a journal that deposits a copy of the final peer-reviewed manuscript, and not the final article, an extra step is required as the author must log into the NIH Manuscript Submission system to review and approve release of the article to PMC.

    If the journal does not handle automatic deposit of the final article or peer-reviewed manuscript, or if the journal does deposit but delays the release for more than 12 months after publication, the responsibility is on the author to meet this obligation. To do so, the author must deposit the final peer-reviewed manuscript into the NIH Manuscript Submission system, making sure to indicate which NIH award(s) the article stems from. If the research on which the article is based was funded by multiple NIH resources, the article can be assigned multiple NIH award numbers. In the case of an article penned by multiple authors, any author may submit the article, but all Principal Investigators and involved Institutions are responsible for the failure to do so.

  4. Cite the Article
    The final obligation imposed by the Policy requires that, beginning May 25, 2008, any citation in NIH applications, proposals, or progress reports to an article authored or co-authored by you, or arising from your NIH award, and subject to the Policy, must include the PMC reference number for that article.

UM's Deep Blue can help

Deep Blue is a UM institutional repository that provides access to published and unpublished work by University of Michigan faculty and students. Work deposited in Deep Blue will be crawled by Google and other search engines, preserved over the long term, and made available at a URL that will never break.

Researchers can send an email request for assistance to:

Jim Ottaviani or a librarian from Health Science will ask for a copy of the article, the name of the PI and the grant number and will take care of the deposit. The PI will still need to do the final approval of the deposit with NIHMS; it's the one thing Deep Blue can't do for the PI.


Need more help? emailĀ

For more information, see the powerpoint presentation: Copyright, Publishing and the NIH Policy ppt version

For further guidance, the NIH provides a comprehensive Public Access Policy FAQ.

Last reviewed: August 2008