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NIH Makes Public Access Policy Mandatory

In order to “help advance science and, ultimately, improve human health,” the National Institutes of Health have taken measures to assure that research conducted with public funds will be accessible to the public free of charge. The NIH’s Public Access Policy that has been voluntary until now becomes mandatory soon.

Public Law 110-161 specifies that all peer-reviewed articles resulting in whole or in part from NIH funding must be submitted to the NIH’s publicly accessible full-text digital archive, PubMed Central. The articles will then become available to the public no longer than twelve months after publication. The length of the delay—or embargo—will be determined by the copyright holder.

Beginning on April 7, 2008, three important responsibilities for research grant recipients will come into effect. Adherence to the policy becomes a term and condition of awards as of that date.

  • First, investigators must insure that the copyright or publishing arrangements of any journals to which they submit articles fully comply with the NIH policy.
  • Second, investigators will be responsible for submitting their articles as electronic files to PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication.
  • Third, investigators must include the PubMed Central reference number to articles that they have authored or co-authored and that fall under this policy when citing these articles in NIH applications, proposals and progress reports.

Articles published in free-access, PubMed Central journals will be uploaded to PubMed Central by the journal, but authors must verify that this has been done. A list of these free-access journals is accessible online.

For articles in other journals, the authors are responsible for submitting an electronic file of the manuscript. In collaboration with NIH, some publishers and some research institutions have or will establish mechanisms for submitting articles on authors’ behalf.

In every case, it is the author who verifies the content of the publicly available file. To assist authors in complying with the new requirement, NIH has created an online tutorial on the submission process.

To find out more, visit the NIH Public Access Policy website.

In addition, the JHU Scholarly Communications Group has launched a website to aid authors in complying with the new NIH Public Access Policy announced last month (read related story). The new site can be accessed at the following URL: Among other features, the new website provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions, a bibliography of readings on the open access movement, a concise summation of the issues, a news forum, and links to relevant policies at Hopkins and other universities.

At the JHU School of Medicine, Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD, Vice Dean for Research, and Daniel E. Ford, MD, MPH, Vice Dean for Clinical Investigation, also invite questions regarding the new policy.


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