NIH Public Access Policy Compliance: Common Compliance Issues and FAQs

Author Issues

I cannot reach the corresponding author of my non-compliant paper.  What should I do?

Contact the NIHMS Submission Help Desk - In many cases, the Help Desk can change the corresponding author information.

Paper Version Issues

What kinds of papers/publications do I submit? What version do I submit?

The law requires investigators to submit "their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts" to PubMed Central. NIH will accept the final published article in lieu of the final peer-reviewed manuscript, provided that the author has the right to submit this version.  Refer to Submission Methods (linked below) to determine who actually does the mission as this may also determine ‘what’ is submitted

Can I submit the publisher's PDF of my manuscript to PMC?

No, to do so would violate most publisher agreements.  You must use the final peer-reviewed manuscript (before publisher's formatting) and follow the publisher's submission requirements.  These requirements are usually detailed in your copyright/author’s rights agreement.  See the four submission methods in the 'How' box.

I can't find the final peer-reviewed manuscript, now what? 

If you are unable to find the final version of the manuscript (with peer-reviewed edits but not the final copy-editing formats), and none of your co-authors have a copy either, contact the publisher and explain your problem.  They may be able to supply a copy that you could use.  If this does not work, contact the NIHMS Submission Help Desk ( 

What is the "Final Peer-Reviewed Manuscript?"

  • Final peer-reviewed manuscript: The Investigator's final manuscript of a peer-reviewed paper accepted for journal publication, including all modifications from the peer review process.  Not to be confused with:
  • Final published article: The journal’s authoritative copy of the paper, including all modifications from the publishing peer review process, copyediting and stylistic edits, and formatting changes.

"Who" Questions?

Who must adhere to the NIH Public Access Policy?

Anyone who publishes peer-reviewed articles arising from research funded by the NIH, or any of its 27 Institutes and Centers, must comply with the Public Access policy. Articles accepted for publication prior to April 8th, 2008 are not bound by this policy.

Can a staff member manage submission and compliance activities on my behalf?

Yes, mostly. You can establish a staff delegate who can:

  • begin the Method C submission process in the NIHMS system However, an author must approve the submission to complete the process and generate a PMCID.

Can any author submit a paper to PubMed Central, or must is be the corresponding author?

Any author with access to the final peer reviewed manuscript can submit the paper to PubMed Central.  It is important that the journal's submission requirements are carefully followed.  The requirements are usually included in the publication agreement signed by the corresponding author.

Many publications result from large teaching grants, who is responsible for ensuring they are all compliant?

The PIs are responsible for ensuring all articles that are directly funded from their grants are compliant, whether or not they are an author.


'How' Questions

How are papers submitted to PubMed Central? 

There are four submission methods. 

  • Method A:  these journals complete the entire submission process to PMC.  The author takes no action, but must follow the journal's instructions for requesting the service.  
  • Method B:  these publishers will complete the entire submission process to PMC for a fee.  Beyond requesting the service and paying the fee, the author takes no action.  
  • Method C:  the author or delegate completes the entire submission process to PMC via the NIH Manuscript Submission system (NIHMS).  
  • Method D:  The publisher submits the final peer-reviewed manuscript to the NIHMS, but the corresponding author must approve the submission.  

How do I associate an award with a previously published paper?

eRA Commons users can add awards to papers in their My NCBI Bibliography.  When using the awards display, an "add or delete award" option will appear under each citation.  See the technical bulletin with detailed instructions below. 

Can I use a PMID number to demonstrate compliance?

No, only the PMCID number can be used to demonstrate compliance.

'What' Questions

What is the difference between a NIHMSID, a PMID and a PMCID?

NIHMSID = NIH Manuscript Submission ID

Generated as a substitute for a PMCID when the manuscript and any additional supporting documents have been submitted by Method C or D. 

  • NIHMSIDs will become invalid three months after a paper is published.
  • use only when you need to cite a paper after its acceptance by a journal & when there is not enough time to complete all steps of the NIH manuscript submission process

PMCID = PMC (PubMed Central) ID #

  • PMC is a free digital archive of nearly 3 million full-text, biomedical and life sciences journal articles and author manuscripts
  • Each Submitted Paper is numbered with a PubMed Central ID number (PMCID)
  • PMCID is used to show compliance

PMID = PubMed ID #

  • PubMed is Database of over 22 million citations to the biomedical literature
  • Each citation is assigned a  PubMed ID number (PMID)
  • PMIDs have nothing to do with the NIH Public Access Policy