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NIH Public Access Policy

Resources and guidance on the NIH Public Access Policy, NIH biosketches, and the SciENcv biosketch tool

Contact Us

Librarians at the Lamar Soutter Library are available to help University of Massachusetts Medical School researchers by answering questions about the law, helping with copyright questions, troubleshooting compliance issues, and providing training or assisting with using the NIH online submission system.

Sally Gore, MS, MS LIS
Manager, Research & Scholarly Communication Services

Lisa Palmer, MSLS, AHIP
Institutional Repository Librarian

Tess Grynoch, MLIS
Research Data & Scholarly Communications Librarian

Leah Honor, MLIS
Research Data & Scholarly Communications Librarian

We're here to help!

NIH Public Access Policy - Basic Steps and Checklist

The NIH Public Access Policy requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to PubMed Central (PMC) upon acceptance for publication.  A manuscript must be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication. This policy applies to any peer-reviewed journal articles arising from NIH funding accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008. The NIH has released comprehensive guidance on this policy including answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Basic Steps

1. Manuscript is accepted for publication (yay!)

  • Confirm your journal's NIH compliance procedure.
  • Ensure that the conditions of the NIH policy can be met BEFORE signing a transfer of copyright agreement.

2. Manuscript is submitted to PubMed Central

3. Authors track and manage their compliance using NCBI's My Bibliography

4. Authors cite PMCID in progress reports, applications, and proposals. 

Important Changes to eRA Commons and NCBI Accounts in 2021-2022

The NIH is implementing important changes to eRA Commons and NCBI accounts.  To increase account security, NIH is transitioning to 3rd-party account credentials such as or university/institutional access. Your eRA Commons and NCBI usernames and passwords will be going away.  This does NOT affect the data in My NCBI, My Bibliiography or SciENcv in your NCBI account or submission data in eRA Commons.


  • Summer 2021: NIH will be launching a wizard to help users disable their NCBI password and link a 3rd-party login. Users will no longer be able to create an account with an NCBI password.
  • After September 15, 2021, you may no longer be able to use eRA credentials to login to eRA Commons. (See: eRA transition timeline)
  • NIH recommends linking at least one 3rd-party login to your NCBI and eRA Commons accounts and starting to use them to login. There are many options, including, InCommon UMMS institutional credentials, ORCID, and Google. (See: Choosing the best 3rd-party option for you)
  • June 2022: NCBI accounts not linked to valid 3rd-party logins will no longer be accessible through NCBI login pages.

What do I need to do?

For researchers who submit grant applications, creating a account and associating it with both eRA Commons and NCBI is probably the most straightforward option.

  1. Make sure your eRA Commons account is linked to your NCBI account (instructions)
  2. Create a account, setting up two-factor authentication with your phone or other method
  3. Associate your account with eRA Commons (you only need to do this once)
    1. Click on the "Login with" option on the eRA Commons home page
    2. Enter your username and password
    3. On the mapping page, enter your eRA Commons credentials
  4. If you have followed steps 1-3, you do not also need to link your NCBI account to The link is already active through the link between NCBI and eRA Commons. When logging in to your NCBI account from, you may select either the eRA Commons login button (using your old eRA username and password) or

If your account is linked with eRA Commons, it will show in NCBI as an eRA Commons account rather than a account, even though you are logging in through eRA Commons-linked accounts acts like eRA Commons accounts (i.e. they provide compliance status and grant information).

NCBI users and researchers who do not submit grant applications can link their NCBI account to or use InCommon UMMS institutional credentials to log in to NCBI by linking to the partner account for "University of Massachusetts Medical School" (instructions).  For those who currently use InCommon Federated account credentials to login to eRA Commons, please note that you may not be able to continue to use those account credentials after September 15, 2021 unless UMMS implements support for two-factor authentication. You are strongly advised to set up credentials for eRA Commons. (read more about InCommon credentials)

Access to online journals

Logging in to NCBI using a 3rd-part login such as may disrupt the process that our library and others use for access to the full text of online journals, especially when off campus.  NCBI is looking into solutions.  For now, to help ensure you have access to journals, we suggest activating your "PubMed Outside Tools" preference in your NCBI account.  Adding the UMassMed Outside Tool enables the UMass Medical School Check for Full Text Button to always appear when you're logged into PubMed with your NCBI account whether you're on campus or off and regardless of whether you go through the library homepage.

  • Sign in to My NCBI.
  • Click on your username in the upper right corner to access the Account Settings page.
  • Click the link at the bottom for NCBI Site Preferences, and then click Outside Tool under PubMed Preferences.
  • Select "UMassMed users can check for full text" from the list of Outside Tool services available.
  • View our very brief video (less than 2 minutes) on how to add the UMassMed Outside Tool!

More information:

PubMed Central (PMC) has been updated with a new look and feel!

PubMed Central (PMC), a digital repository of full text journal articles and the destination for all NIH-funded journal manuscripts, has been updated with a new look and feel! Check out the new site and learn more about the changes.

Graphic with text at the top saying "Updated PMC Website Now Live". Below are images of the updated website on mobile and laptop devices. In the bottom right is the logo for the National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information

Presentation: NIH Public Access Compliance Instructions

NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS) - Submission process

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed the NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system to facilitate the submission of peer-reviewed manuscripts for inclusion in PubMed Central (PMC) in support of the NIH Public Access Policy. Step-by-step tutorials are available.Steps in the NIHMS deposit process



Four Paths to Compliance

There are four pathways, or methods, that a manuscript can take to get to PubMed Central.

Method A: Searchable list of journals from publishers who will deposit the manuscript to PubMed Central on behalf of authors; the author has no action to take. 

Method B: Journal publishers will deposit author manuscripts to PubMed Central upon special arrangement with the submitting authors. "Special arrangement" usually means a substantial Open Access fee. Note that this is not the only way to submit a manuscript to PubMed Central, even if it is the only method offered by your publisher!

Method C: The author submits their manuscript directly to the NIH Manuscript Submission system and approves it for posting to PubMed Central.

Method D: Journal publishers will deposit the manuscript to the NIH Manuscript Submission system on behalf of authors and the author must then approve the version prepared for PubMed Central. 

PubMed and PubMed Central are Different!


PubMed is a searchable literature database, indexing thousands of biomedical and life science journals. It includes title, author, and abstract information for millions of citations and links to the article. Identifiers assigned by PubMed are PMIDs. PubMed does not include full text of articles. 

PubMed Central (PMC) is a digital repository of full text journal articles and the destination for all NIH-funded journal manuscripts. Identifiers assigned by PMC are PMCIDs; these are the IDs that should be used in reporting and applications to demonstrate compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy. 

Publisher Policies

These links take you to information on the major scientific publishers' websites regarding their policies on the NIH Public Access Mandate.


What are preprints?

Preprints are research manuscripts that have not been formally published or refined/critiqued through the peer review process and are often deposited in preprint servers:

Preprint Resources
NIH Preprint Pilot (June 2020- )

During the pilot, NLM will make preprints resulting from research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) available via PubMed Central (PMC) and, by extension, PubMed. The pilot aims to explore approaches to increasing the discoverability of early NIH research results posted to eligible preprint servers. Pilot is running for a minimum of 12 months, starting June 2020.

Preprints can be submitted to the NIH as a product of award but do not fall under the NIH Public Access Policy since they are not peer-reviewed. If the manuscript is accepted for publication, the peer-reviewed manuscript will still need to be submitted through the NIH Manuscript System (NIHMS) by the publisher or author to receive a PubMed Central ID (PMCID).

Contacting NIH

NCBI Help Desk answers questions about My NCBI and My Bibliography.  Be sure to include the full citation, eRA Commons user name, and NCBI user name if needed. 

NIHMS Help Desk answers questions about manuscript submissions to the NIH Manuscript Submission System.

eRA Service Desk answers questions about eRA Commons and submitting progress reports (RPPRs). They can also be reached by phone Monday-Friday 7 am-8 pm Eastern at 1-866-504-9552 (toll free) or 301-402-7469. Press 1 for eRA Commons or ASSIST.