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NIH Public Access Policy

NIH requirements for public access to scholarly articles published as a result of NIH awards, with help for UCSF researchers.

Which Method? Four Paths to PMC

There are four methods for getting articles into PubMed Central (PMC), depending on the journal the article is published in and what method the publisher has chosen. Knowing which method the particular journal or publisher follows will dictate what steps you need to take to make sure your article complies with NIH's Public Access Policy.

NIH provides a Wizard to help you determine the Method, starting with Method A and working up to Method D.

Methods A & B - PMC Direct

Under both Methods A and B, the publisher provides the final published version of the article to PMC, no later than 12 months after publication.

Method A is journal-based. Participating journals post all peer-reviewed, NIH-funded articles in PMC. Authors do not have to interface with the manuscript, however the steps below must still be followed to ensure compliance. Approximately 2,400 journals are in this category, which is a small subset of all journals that are published.

Method B is for paid open access articles published with selected publishers. These publishers have an agreement with NIH to deposit the final article in PMC when notified by the author that an article falls under the policy.

Steps to compliance:

  1. Let the publisher know that the paper falls under NIH's policy, ideally during the submission process.
  2. Add the citation to My Bibliography (the publisher can not complete this step for an author).
  3. Associate the fund(s) that applies to the the paper in My Bibliography.

Methods C & D - PMC via NIHMS

The vast majority of articles fall under Methods C & D, simply because Method D publishers control the majority of the market. The steps are almost identical under C & D, except for who deposits the manuscript under step 1 below.

Key points:

  • The final accepted manuscript is used, unless the publisher allows use of the final version. The Sherpa Romeo database can help you determine which version is allowed.
  • The manuscript is deposited and processed in the NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS), which feeds into PMC.
  • There is no comprehensive list of Method C publishers. If the publisher or journal is not on the A, B, or D lists, then by default it's Method C.

Methods C & D Steps

  1. Final manuscript is submitted to NIHMS by either the publisher (Method D) or the author (Method C)
    • Publisher will assign the manuscript to a Reviewer, usually the corresponding author on the manuscript
    • Associate the publication with the NIH award number to ensure it gets linked to the progress report.
  2. NIHMSID is assigned, which provides provisional compliance within three months after the publication date
    • Note: manuscripts with an NIHMSID will show a non-compliant status if it's more than three months after publication and until the PMCID is obtained
  3. Initial approval: reviewing author approves the submitted file, associates funding, and sets the public release date. Check Sherpa Romeo for the journal's embargo period, or use a default release date of 12 months after publication.
  4. NIH converts the submitted file to PMC format, and emails the Reviewer when the file is ready for final approval. Allow 4-6 weeks for this step due to a COVID-19-related slowdown (normally 2-3 weeks).
  5. Final approval: Reviewer approves PMC-ready file in NIHMS.
  6. The PMCID is assigned after this approval, and may take a day or two for PubMed, PMC, NIHMS, and My Bibliography to all sync up. Once My Bib registers the PMCID, the status will show compliant/complete, and you're golden!
    • The full text will be freely accessible in PMC as of the public release date. Until then, a placeholder record will display with the article citation.

NIHMS Help: Overview of stepsFAQ | Glossary | Status definitions | Step-by-Step Tutorials | Video tutorial