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NIH Public Access Mandate

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been directed by new legislation to mandate that all peer-reviewed journal articles published as a result of NIH grant funds be made freely available through PubMed Central (PMC), the digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature. The Library has created a resource, Guide to the NIH Public Access Mandate, that will help you through the process. Below are some of the highlights.


The United States Congress wants to assure that research that has been funded through federal, NIH money is available to all citizens and to all researchers.


The articles may be the publisher's pdf version or the author's final, peer-reviewed version of the article; in either case, copyright must be respected. Posting is required even if the author publishes in an open access journal, or if the article is freely accessible on the publisher’s website.


The policy applies to all peer-reviewed journal articles published as a result of NIH grant funds that were accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008.

Articles should be freely available to all on the PubMed Central site within one year of publication.


Principle Investigators are responsible for making sure that all papers that are based on research from their NIH grants (whether they are an author of the paper, or not) are made available through PubMed Central. Someone other than the PI can make the deposit; this may be a lab assistant, a secretary, or other designated person. The Library is willing to do this for you, too. But the ultimate responsibility rests with the PI, who will receive an email from the NIH Manuscript Submission System after the article has been processed.


From the NIH FAQ:
“Authors should work with the publisher before any rights are transferred to ensure that all conditions of the NIH Public Access Policy can be met. Authors should avoid signing any agreements with publishers that do not allow the author to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.”

A publisher’s compliance with the NIH policy can be checked by reviewing the SHERPA/Romeo site. For example, from Sherpa one learns that both Nature and Science allow authors to comply with the NIH mandate, subject to restrictions, with just a 6 month embargo. In neither publication is the author allowed to submit the publisher's PDF (though it should be referenced); rather, the author's final peer-reviewed version should be posted to PubMed Central. (The most convenient time to do this would be at the same that you send in the final version to the publisher.)

The new NIH policy does NOT change the author’s copyrights’ status. In our experience, authors are having some success with modifying the publisher's copyright transfer agreements when they strike through the objectionable portions of the copyright transfer forms and write in the rights that they wish to maintain. The author can still “assign [copyrights] to journals, subject to the limited right that must be retained…to post the works in accordance with the Policy” in PubMed Central.

The NIH suggests some possible language that can be used to modify a publisher’s agreement:

"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.”

Additionally, the University of Illinois provides authors with a copyright amendment form to publisher agreements that is supported by the provosts of the CIC, and was developed to support authors who wanted to retain some rights over the works that they produce. The amendment language, if accepted by the publisher, would allow authors to comply with the NIH mandate. Download the CIC amendment. To use the addendum, authors need only to fill in the form and staple it to the publisher's agreement form that they return to publishers prior to the publication of their article.


There should be no additional cost to authors for providing their peer-reviewed articles to the world via PubMed Central.

  • Quite a few journals are depositing papers on behalf of the authors, at no cost. If your journal is on the list of Journals that Submit Articles to PubMed Central, you're nearly done! You only need to provide the NIH grant number to the publisher, so the PI will be notified when the paper has been deposited!
  • Most journals are allowing their authors to comply with the mandate by uploading their final, peer reviewed version of the manuscript to the NIH Manuscript Submission System: http://www.nihms.nih.gov/. Refer to the SHERPA/Romeo site to determine what your publisher allows, or contact the publisher directly.
  • Some journals are offering authors the option to pay extra in order to make their articles freely accessible to all ("open access"), from the time of publication. This is your choice, but this is not a requirement. You should not feel you need to pay extra in order to comply with the NIH Public Access Mandate.


Besides posting your research to PubMed Central, another requirement is that you reference the PubMed Central ID number (PMCID) when submitting future grants.

In the past NIH PIs have been required to maintain a bibliography of their publications in the eRA Commons system.  But as of June 23rd, 2010 they are supposed to maintain their bibliography within the PubMed MyNCBI system, which will then allow them to port these citations over to the Commons system.  They can also use the MyNCBI Bibliography to monitor their compliance with the NIH Public Access Mandate.  For more information, see Creating Your MyNCBI Bibliography, a section of our NIH Public Access Mandate guide.


Please refer to the NIH Public Access Mandate , a guide created for University of Illinois researchers holding NIH grants. Navigating through the tabs you will find:

For local assistance, please contact Katie Newman, University of Illinois Biotechnology Librarian. florador@illinois.edu or 217-265-5386