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NIH Public Access Policy

Guide for Research Universities

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What’s New?

On January 11, 2008, in response to an act of Congress, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a revision of its Public Access Policy. Effective April 7, 2008, the agency requires investigators to deposit their articles stemming from NIH funding in the NIH online archive.


About the New Policy

To expand use of publicly funded research findings, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will require its investigators to deposit (or have deposited for them) in the PubMed Central online archive an electronic version of their journal articles stemming from NIH-funded research. The articles will be made publicly available in PubMed Central within 12 months after journal publication.

See the Policy Overview page. NIH also offers detailed information on the policy at its NIH Public Access Web site.

A Step Forward

The new NIH policy is an important step forward for science, scientists, and the higher education community. A wide range of academic and public stakeholders have vigorously supported adoption of such a measure. Here are some of the benefits:

  • PubMed Central deposit is a convenient substitute for the submission of print copies of articles in fulfillment of grants reporting requirements.

  • Research in PubMed Central is available to virtually all Internet users, regardless of whether their library subscribes to the journal in which the research is published. This will greatly expand access to the estimated 80,000 articles that result each year from NIH funding for use in research, teaching, and patient care.

  • A consequence of making work more visible among scientists around the world is greater impact.

  • The open environment provided by NIH will facilitate development of new kinds of computational research techniques. Already the full-texts of journal articles in PubMed Central are linked to other scientific databases such as GenBank, enabling researchers to observe and explore relationships that may not previously have been apparent.

  • The National Library of Medicine will provide long-term digital archiving of articles in PubMed Central, ensuring tomorrow’s researchers can build on today’s findings.

  • The NIH policy precedent can open the door for institutions to secure expanded rights to use research in teaching, learning, and research.

What Does It Mean for Research Institutions?

The NIH Public Access Policy brings with it obligations as well as benefits for researchers and their institutions. Research administrators (e.g. sponsored research offices) will be responsible for the institution’s compliance as grantee, but other campus stakeholders have roles to play as well. Use the Institutional Response page to review some of the implications for research administrators, NIH-funded investigators, university legal counsel, and librarians.

Key Dates

  • April 7, 2008: Articles accepted for publication on or after this date must be deposited in PubMed Central.

  • May 25, 2008: Beginning this date anyone submitting an application, proposal or progress report to the NIH must include the PubMed Central reference number when citing articles arising from their NIH funded research. (This includes applications submitted to the NIH for the May 25, 2008 and subsequent due dates.)

*Note: March 20, 2008: NIH will hold a public hearing to gather comments on implementation of the Public Access Policy. Written comments can be submitted until March 17.