NIH Public Access Policy

In September 2004, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) proposed that research articles based on NIH funding, in whole or in part, be deposited in PubMed Central, NIH's online archive of biomedical literature. These articles would become publicly available six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The proposal, NOT-OD-04-064, sought to accelerate the pace of discovery, provide additional capabilities to NIH in managing its research portfolio, and enhance public access to biomedical literatures.

Following months of public input, in May 2005, NIH released a Public Access Policy to make peer-reviewed, final manuscripts stemming from NIH-funded research available to the public free of charge on PubMed Central within 12 months after publication in a scientific journal. The 2005 policy strongly encouraged authors to post for public accessibility as soon as possible.

On January 11, 2008, NIH announced a new NIH Public Access Policy, NOT-OD-08-033, that becomes effective April 7, 2008. This policy calls for mandatory deposit in PubMed Central of peer-reviewed electronic manuscripts stemming from NIH funding upon acceptance for publication and stipulates that these manuscripts be made publicly available within 12 months of publication.


On July 14, 2004, the House Committee on Appropriations issued a report accompanying the FY 2005 Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill that recommended NIH implement a policy to make research articles available to the public free of charge on PubMed Central six months after publication in a scientific journal. NIH is to submit a report to the committee by Dec. 1, 2004, concerning how the agency will implement this new policy.

Over the past year, several congressional committees have focused on how NIH may be better positioned to meet future challenges. For example, during the FY 2004 appropriations cycle, the House Committee on Appropriations asked the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to give a report on the impact of escalating journal subscription costs on access to biomedical information and to recommend possible actions that would alleviate restrictions on access to this information. With the completion of the NLM report, the committee concluded the following:

Please note, below is the relevant unofficial text from the committee report:

The Committee is very concerned that there is insufficient public access to reports and data resulting from NIH-funded research. This situation, which has been exacerbated by the dramatic rise in scientific journal subscription prices, is contrary to the best interests of the U.S. taxpayers who paid for this research. The Committee is aware of a proposal to make the complete text of articles and supplemental materials generated by NIH-funded research available on PubMed Central (PMC), the digital library maintained by the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The Committee supports this proposal and recommends NIH develop a policy, to apply from FY 2005 forward, requiring that a complete electronic copy of any manuscript reporting work supported by NIH grants or contracts be provided to PMC upon acceptance of the manuscript for publication in any scientific journal listed in the NLM’s PubMed directory. Under this proposal, NLM would commence making these reports, together with supplemental materials, freely and continuously available than six months after publication, or immediately in cases in which some or all of the publication costs are paid with NIH grant funds. For this purpose, “publication costs” would include fees charged by a publisher, such as color and page charges, or fees for digital distribution. NIH is instructed to submit a report to the Committee by December 1, 2004 about how it intends to implement this policy, including how it will ensure the reservation of rights by the NIH grantee, if required, to permit placement of the article in PMC and to allow appropriate public uses of this literature.

For more information, please see the committee report.

More Background Information from NIH

ARL Comments on NIH Revised Public Access Policy

Comments from May 2008

Comments from March 20, 2008

Comments from March 13, 2008

ARL Resources

PubMed Central Deposit and Author Rights, by Ben Grillot [PDF], August ‘08

NIH Public Access Policy Does Not Affect US Copyright Law, Analysis [PDF] and Summary [PDF] , July 11, '08

Managing Copyright for NIH Public Access: Strategies to Ensure Compliance, by Kevin L. Smith, Scholarly Communications Officer, Duke University, March 28, '08

Webcast: Institutional Compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy: Ensuring Deposit Rights, March 7, '08

SPARC, Science Commons, and ARL Offer Options for University Implementation of New NIH Public Access Policy, Feb. 29, '08

NIH Public Access Policy, Guide for Research Universities, Feb. 18, '08

FAQs re the NIH Proposal, November 16, '07

Mandatory Public Access to Federally Funded Research Does Not Violate Copyright Obligations, July '07 [PDF]

Update on the NIH Proposal by Prue Adler, Associate Executive Director, Federal Relations and Information Policy, September 20, '04

Supporting Organizations



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