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NIH Public Access Policy

The NIH Public Access Policy ensures that the public has access to the published results of NIH funded research. It requires investigators to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the digital archive PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication.  To help advance science and improve human health, the Policy requires that these papers are accessible to the public on PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication.

The major components of complying with NIH Public Access Policy:

  • Determine Applicability
  • Address Copyright
  • Submit Manuscript to the NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS) for Deposit into PubMed Central (PMC)
  • Show Evidence of Compliance

The Principal Investigator (PI) is ultimately responsible for ensuring compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy.

In navigating compliance with NIH Public Access Policy, it may be helpful to keep in mind that there are multiple systems involved.  Here is a graphic displaying the systems mentioned in this help guide.

In 2008 Congress passed the NIH Public Access Policy
This policy requires that any research must be deposited and available to the public in electronic format  in PubMed Central if it meets the criteria below.

  • Is peer-reviewed (journal has a process in place, usually including editors or scholars in a specific discipline, to evaluate articles submitted for publication in their title)
  • And is accepted for publication in a journal on or after April 7,  2008
  • And is funded by any of these four scenarios
    • Any direct funding from an NIH grant or cooperative agreement active in Fiscal Year 2008 or beyond, or;
    • Any direct funding from an NIH contract signed on or after April 7, 2008, or;
    • Any direct funding from the NIH Intramural Program, or;
    • An NIH employee.

The rational behind this is to help advance science and improve human health by allowing the public to see the research.
This information above comes  from NIH Public Access Policy Details. Please visit for more precise details. 


Delegate (eRACommons) - appointed person can perform tasks in your account.

Delegate (My Bibliography) - appointed person can add or remove citations to the bibliography and perform other functions.

Embargo – a period of time set by a publisher that restricts non-paid access to a publication. After this time period an article can be freely accessible to the public.
Finding a journal’s compliance and embargo policies can be a difficult task. The best way to find this is to go to the journal’s website and check the “Instructions for Authors” section. Look for the keywords Public Access, Compliance or Embargo. Another option is to get in contact with the editor of the journal.

eRACommons (electronic research administration) - an online interface principal investigators, trainees and post-docs at institutions/organizations can access and share administrative information relating to research grants.

My Bibliography - reference management tool within PubMed that helps the user save personal publications (journal articles, books/chapters, patents, presentations and meetings) directly from PubMed or, if not found there, to manually enter citations using My Bibliography templates. eRA commons users can sign in to My Bibliography with their eRA Commons login to track compliance with the NIH public access policy and report papublications to NIH. These two systems will share publication information but only if use eRACommons login. See also Other Citations.

My NCBI - tool that retains user information and database preferences to provide customized services for many databases operated by NCBI, including PubMed, PubMed Central and SciENcv. It allows you to save searches, select display formats, filtering options, and set up automatic searches that are sent by e-mail. It includes the bibliography management system My Bibliography.

NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS) – online tool for authors and publishers to deposit electronic version of peer-reviewed final manuscripts for inclusion in PubMed Central. Publications in the NIHMS are assigned an identifier (NIHMSID). The NIHMS has a video overview, illustrated submission tutorials and an FAQ.  

Other Citations – alternative reference management tool to My Bibliography within NCBI but is a separate collection of citations in My NCBI. Its features and operations are identical to My Bibliography. This alternative is offered to NIH principal investigators to use to track and report publications that they did not author, but arose from their NIH award.
The above definitions come from the NIH.

PubMed Central (PMC) – freely accessible database of publications that must comply with the NIH Publication Access Policy NIH grants.

PMID – the unique reference number assigned to a publication that has been entered into PubMed.

PMCID - PMC ID is a unique reference number assigned to a publication that has been entered into PMC to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.

Use these links when having trouble with these parts of the NIH Public Access System