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NIH Public Access Policy

General Information

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.

Important Changes to NCBI Accounts Coming in 2021

If you login to NCBI to use MyNCBI, SciENcv, or MyBibliography, there will be some important changes to NCBI accounts coming in 2021.

To increase account security, NCBI will be transitioning to federated account credentials. Your NCBI username and password will be going away. Federated account credentials are those set through eRA Commons, Google, or university or institutional access.  After June 1, 2021, you will no longer be able to use NCBI-managed credentials to login to NCBI.

What do I need to do before June 1, 2021?

UMMS researchers and administrators who access NCBI with eRA Commons credentials are currently using a federated login and don’t need to do anything.

Those with only NCBI credentials should link their NCBI account to their University of Massachusetts Medical School login:

  1. Login to NCBI the way you usually do.
  2. Click on your username in the top bar to get to your Account Settings.
  3. To add a linked account, click the “Change” button under Linked Accounts.
  4. Search for University of Massachusetts Medical School in the list of partner accounts and click on its link.

For more information, see the NCBI Insights blog.

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. 

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.