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NIH Public Access Policy - Overview

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy became effective April 7, 2008. Under a new federal law, NIH is now requiring that the author’s final version of any peer-reviewed journal article resulting from NIH-funded activities must be submitted to the PubMed Central (PMC) repository, where it will be made available to the public within 12 months after the journal article is published. This new policy has several compliance issues that authors need to address.


Authors must ensure that agreements with publishers permit the submission of the author’s manuscript to NIH.
  • Submit this letter (PDF document) with your manuscript alerting the publisher to the fact that the manuscript is subject to the NIH policy and that the University at Buffalo expects them to comply with the policy.
  • There is also suggested wording that you can add to a publisher’s agreement to ensure that you can fulfill the NIH policy.

Submission of Your Manuscript

For peer-reviewed manuscripts accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008, authors must submit the final version of the manuscript, and accompanying files, to the NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS).
  • The NIMHS system is very easy to use.
  • Submission can be done by the author or a third party in their lab or department.
  • Some publishers will submit manuscripts for authors. See list
  • In the future the University Libraries may consider developing a submission service for UB authors linked to the developing UB Institutional Archive. In the meantime, UB researchers should plan to use the NIH Manuscript Submission System.

Some publishers are charging fees to do this for you. In those instances you can avoid paying the fee by submitting the manuscript to PubMed Central yourself. The NIH submission process is simple and easy. Paying the publisher is NOT necessary.

Tools for eRA Commons Users

A set of My NCBI (MyBibliography) tools is now available for eRA Commons users with active NIH grants. These tools will make it much easier to manage compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy (see the NIH official notice of this change). Note also that as of July 23, 2010 eRA Commons users are required to use these tools to report and enter citations resulting from their NIH-funded grant projects. The National Library of Medicine’s Technical Bulletin provides detailed instructions for using these tools.

Citing PubMed Central (PMC) ID Numbers

When your manuscript is submitted to NIH, you will receive a NIHMS ID number, and once it is available in PubMed Central, it will be assigned a PMC ID number.

Effective May 25, 2008, you need to cite the PMC ID or NIHMS ID numbers for any articles you cite in your progress reports, new applications, and renewals. These are only needed for articles accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008, but you may include PMC ID numbers for articles already in PubMed Central as well.

On August 12, 2009 NIH published a clarification regarding the use of NIHMS ID numbers to show compliance with the Public Access Policy. Based on observations that NIHMS ID numbers were often used incorrectly, this notice clarifies the acceptable temporary uses of this number and defines the specific period during which the NIHMS ID number can be used instead of the PMC ID number.

Effective August 21, 2009 an NIHMS ID can be used to indicate compliance with the Public Access Policy for up to three months after a paper is published. After that three-month period, a PMC ID number must be provided to indicate compliance.

Additional background information and a chart for determining how NIH will determine if a NIHMS ID number is no longer valid for a specific paper is provided at this NIH website:

Your Library Subject Specialists can help you find these numbers, if you need assistance.


The Architecture & Planning Library, Lockwood Memorial Library, Silverman Library Librarians and Health Sciences Librarians will be prepared to assist UB authors who have questions about the policy or need assistance in finding publishers' copyright policies, PMC ID numbers, or other information. In the meantime, the following are Web resources for immediate information and help: