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NIH Public Access Policy - Harvard Guidelines and Requirements

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How to Comply with NIH Public Access Policy

Adapted From: Zhang, Y. (2016, October 4). Compliance with NIH public access policy?. Retrieved from


What is NIH Public Access Policy?

NIH Public Access Policy (NIHPAP) is a term and condition of award for all grants and cooperative agreements active since Fiscal Year 2008 or subsequent fiscal years, and for all contracts awarded after April 7, 2008. Its goal is to ensure that the public has access to the published results of NIH funded research. More information can be found at

What Are the Requirements of the Policy?

The NIH Public Access Policy requires:

  • All investigators funded by the NIH submit or delegate others to submit on their behalf an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts, upon acceptance for publication, to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central repository.
  • The final published paper must be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication in a manner consistent with copyright law.
  • The final published paper must have a PMCID assigned within 3 months of publication.

Failure to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy could result in a discontinuation of funding or no future funding.

What Is the Policy Applicable to?

  • Peer-reviewed paper.
    • Peer Review is review of the quality of articles submitted for publication in a scholarly journal by experts (peers) in the same field at the request of the journal editor.
    • The peer reviewers check the manuscript for accuracy and assess the validity of the research methodology and procedures.
  • Paper resulting from NIH funded research.
  • Paper accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008


  • PMCID is a unique identifier assigned to each full text articles added to PubMed Central.
  • PMID is a unique identifier assigned to each citation as it is added to PubMed.

PMC vs. PubMed

  • PMC is free full text repository of peer-reviewed biomedical and life sciences journal articles. All content in PMC is permanently accessible and free.
  • PubMed provides free access to MEDLINE of 24 million references to articles published in about 5,600 biomedical journals, selected life sciences journals and online books.

Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscript

  • Author's final manuscript of a peer-reviewed paper accepted for journal publication.
  • Includes all modifications from the peer review process.
  • Submitted by Authors/designee or Publishers/Journals to PMC.

Final Published Article

  • Journal's authoritative copy of the paper.
  • Includes all modifications from peer review and the publishing process: copyediting, stylistic edits, and formatting changes.
  • Submitted by Publishers/Journals to PMC.

Address Copyright Issues

Make sure that the publication agreement or similar copyright transfer agreement allows the paper to be posted to PubMed Central (PMC) in accordance with the NIH Public Access Policy.

How to Submit Paper to PMC?

Authors may use a method most appropriate for them and consistent with their publishing agreement.

  • Method A - Journal deposits the final published articles in PMC without the author's involvement. 
  • Method B - Author arranges with journals or publishers for the deposit of the final published article in PMC usually for a fee.
  • Method C - Author or a designee deposits the final peer-reviewed manuscript in PMC via NIHMS. For detailed information, please visit Submitting Papers Through the NIHMS: Methods C and D Best Practices.
  • Method D - Publisher deposits final peer-reviewed manuscript via NIHMS and author completes submission. Authors and awardees are responsible for ensuring that the manuscript is deposited is deposited into the NIHMS upon acceptance for publication. 

NOTE: It takes 8 weeks for the final peer-reviewed manuscript (Method C & D) to be made available in PMC and assigned a PMCID. Which method to use depends on the policies of the journal and your publishing agreement with the publisher. Please check this page for more information: Submission Methods.

Summary of Submission Methods

Version of Paper Submitted Final Published Article Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscript
Submission Method to Deposit Files
  • Method A: Some Journals automatically post NIH supported papers directly to PMC
  • Method B: Authors must make special arrangements for some journals and publishers to post the paper directly to PMC, usually for a fee
  • Method C: Authors or their designee must submit manuscripts to the NIHMS
  • Method D: Some publishers will submit manuscripts to the NIHMS
  • Awardees are responsible for ensuring manuscripts are submitted to the NIHMS upon acceptance for publication
Approve Submission Publisher

Author, via NIHMS

Approve PMC web version Publisher Author, via NIHMS
Responsible Party NIH awardee NIH awardee
To cite papers, from acceptance for publication to 3 months post publication PMCID or "PMC Journal- In Process"  PMCID or NIHMSID
To cite papers, 3 months post publication and beyond PMCID PMCID


Citing PMCID

  • PMCID must be included in citations.
  • Anyone submitting an application, proposal or report to NIH must include the PMCID when citing applicable papers authored by them or resulting from their NIH-funded research
  • When PMCID is not yet available, use
    • "PMC Juornal - in Process" for up to 3 months after publication for Method A & B
    • NIHMSID up to 3 months after publication for Medhod C & D.
  • For papers published more than 3 months before an application, proposal and report is submitted, a PMCID is the only way to demonstrate compliance for these papers.
  • Use NIH style to cite. All the authors must be displayed in the reference.
  • Sample NIH Citation

Sala-Torra O, Gundacker HM, Stirewalt DL, Ladne PA, Pogosova-Agadjanyan EL, Slovak ML, Willman CL, Helmfeld S, Boldt DH, Radich JP. Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) expression and outcome in adult patients with acute lymphoblastic lukemia. Blood. 2007 April 1; 109(7): 3080-3083 PMCID: PMC1852221

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