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Complying with the NIH Public Access Policy

A February 2012 update (PDF) from the NIH states "No harm to publishers is evident" after 4 years of the Public Access Policy.

The Policy in a Nutshell

The policy mandates that NIH-funded research must be made available for free to the public. All final peer-reviewed manuscripts, arising from NIH funds awarded after October 1, 2007, must be submitted to the open-access database PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication. This policy does not apply to non-peer-reviewed materials such as correspondence, book chapters, and editorials.

How to Comply

Some journals will submit your final manuscript to PubMed Central on your behalf, meaning that no additional action on your part is necessary. A list of journals that provide this service is available here.

If the journal publishing your article does not appear on that list, there are two steps that must be taken in order to successfully submit your article.

  1. Make sure that the copyright agreement you sign when your article is accepted allows you to submit the final, peer-reviewed manuscript to PubMed Central. Publishers are aware of the NIH Public Access Policy, but they are not required to comply with are. So, don't make any assumptions when signing! If the copyright agreement does not explicitly allow you to retain the right to deposit your article in PubMed Central, ask about it. The NIH has an example of language you can use to create an addendum to your copyright agreement. If the journal is not receptive to allowing you to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy, keep in mind that non-compliance can result in disqualification for future NIH funding. If you need help working with a publisher, contact h.corbett [at] (Hillary Corbett), Scholarly Communication Librarian and University Copyright Officer.
  2. Once you have secured permission to deposit your article in PubMed Central, submit it online via the NIH Manuscript Submission System. Please consider submitting your article to Northeastern's Digital Repository Service (DRS) too! It's not required in order to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy, but it will provide even greater visibility for your work and help co-locate the research efforts of the university.

One last thing: Once you successfully submit articles to PubMed Central, a PubMed Central reference number, known as the PMCID, will be assigned for each article. As of May 25, 2008, in all subsequent work with the NIH (applications, proposals, and progress reports), when citing such PubMed Central papers of which you are an author or co-author, or which have arisen from your previous NIH awards, you must also cite their PMCID.

Need Help?

The NIH has put together an exhaustive FAQ about all aspects of the Public Access Policy.

The Library can help, too! Contact your department's library representative or h.corbett [at] (Hillary Corbett), Scholarly Communication Librarian.

View our poster session from the 2008 Research and Scholarship Expo: The NIH Public Access Policy: What It Means for NU Researchers.

View a flowchart on How to Demonstrate Compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy that was created by the Becker Medical Library at Washington University of St. Louis (PDF).