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NIH Public Access Policy Guide

Guide to Getting Started and Staying Compliant

Step 1: Ensure you have the right to deposit the article in PMC

Read the fine print

Before signing a publication agreement, read the journal’s copyright release carefully and be sure it allows you to deposit your article in PMC.

"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." (suggested wording from the NIH FAQ and acceptable to SIU Legal Counsel): )

Step 2: Deposit and approve

Methods of Deposit

Manuscripts can be deposited in one of four ways.  The methods differ in who is responsible for the article deposit (publisher or author), what version of the paper is submitted (final published article or final peer-reviewed manuscript), and who approves the paper for processing and for PMC display.

Method A: Journal deposits published article for the author. Typically these journals deposit all their articles in PMC.
Method B: Publisher deposits published article upon request of author, usually for a fee.
Method C: Author deposits the final peer-reviewed manuscript through the NIH Manuscript Submission process.
Method D: Publisher deposits the final peer-reviewed manuscript and the author reviews and approves the submission.

Overview of the four  methods.

To see if your journal supports Methods A, B, or D:

  1. Go to the NIH Public Access page
  2. Use the “How do I submit my paper to PMC” search box.

Depositing using the NIH Manuscript Submission System (Method C)

NIH Tutorials on the deposit process are available.

Submission Checklist

Before beginning the submission process, you or your delegate will need the following:

  1. Journal title
  2. Title of your manuscript
  3. Your grant number/s
  4. The files containing your manuscript. These files may be Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, TIFF, GIF, JPEG, etc.

The NIHMS process will prepare a Web version from the files you deposit.

Deposit Process

Log into the NIH Manuscript Submission System using:

a) The eRA Commons route if you are the author.

b) The myNCBI route if you are depositing on behalf of the author.

  • The NIH Manuscript system guides you through the deposit process, which takes about 10 minutes.
  • Navigation buttons at the bottom right of the screen advance you to the next step.
  • "Save and edit" or “cancel submission” at any stage.
  • Step links at the top of the page allow you to go back and modify previous steps.
  1. Enter the journal title and manuscript title
    Journal titles are prepopulated with the journal titles included in PubMed.  If the article is already in PubMed, you can retrieve it via a PubMed lookup. If you are doing the deposit yourself using your eRA Commons log-in, your grant information will already be available for selection.
  2. Upload your article files.
    For each file, indicate “Type” (choices are Manuscript Text, Figure, Table, Supplementary Data); “Label” (this should follow the convention of your manuscript, e.g., Fig 1; Table 2, etc.), and “Name” (the file name, which attaches very much like an e-mail attachment). Click “Upload Files”.
  3. Confirm that files have uploaded.
    You will go through a process to confirm your files have uploaded.  Review the PDF Receipt that is presented to you.
  4. Review and agree with submission statement.
    You will be asked to review and agree with a submission statement.  This statement affirms that the article is a result of NIH funded research and that you have the right to deposit it.
  5. Make a note of the NIHMS reference number (NIHMS ID). 
    The number is assigned to the manuscript during the deposit process.  This number can be used in lieu of the PMCID for reporting purposes for three months after the article’s publication. By the end of that period a PMCID should be obtained.


At this point, you are done with the submission process, but must still complete the approval step. 

  • You will receive an e-mail when the Web Proof of your article is ready for your review. 
  • If the publisher or a third party delegate is depositing for you, you will also receive an e-mail asking you to review the Web version. 
  • It may be several weeks before the article is ready for your review. Be vigilant in watching for and responding to requests for approval of your deposited article. 
  • Until you approve the final deposit, your article is not in compliance with the NIH public access requirements.


Step 3: Set the embargo period

Embargo Period

Setting the release period to PubMed Central is part of the submission process.  The delay interval may be determined by your publisher’s requirement and can vary from immediately to 12 months.

If the publisher does not restrict the delay, you can make your article available “immediately.”

Step 4: Properly cite PMCID in future NIH grant documentation

PMCID Number

A PMCID number is assigned to each article when it is successfully submitted to PMC.

The PMCID will appear below the abstract in the PubMed entry.

If the paper is not yet published, you may use the NIHMS reference number (NIHMS ID) that was assigned to the article during the deposit process.

To determine if an article already has a PMCID (e.g., you’re not the first author or think the publisher may have submitted it, etc.):

Step 5: Ensure ongoing compliance


  • Managing Compliance to the NIH Public Access Policy
    NIH provides authors with tools to maintain compliance information through My NCBI’s My Bibliography section.  Authors can link their articles in My Bibliography and determine the status of the public access to their articles.  The status is automatically updated as the deposit and approval process progresses.
  • PACM User’s Guide
    Institutions have access to Public Access Compliance Monitor (PACM), a Web-based tool to track the compliance status of the institution’s articles that are covered by the NIH Public Access Policy.  Access to PACM is restricted to authorized institutional users, but the PACM User’s Guide is freely available.

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