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NIH Public Access Policy

Describes the NIH Public Access Policy and compliance, including the process for obtaining PMCIDs

Before You Deposit to NIHMS

If your journal does not submit to PubMed Central for authors, you will probably have to self-submit to PMC via the NIHMS. If multiple PIs or authors are involved, one should be designated as corresponding and submitting author.

Read your publisher's author agreement
Before submission, authors need to determine any stipulations journals may have placed on submission by authors. These stipulations can be found on the publisher's copyright agreement form or on the publisher's web pages for submission.

This form will often have a section dedicated to funding. If the agreement has such a section, make sure you indicate that you are NIH funded, and provide the grant numbers, if there is a field for them.

Journals may have other requirements or stipulations in author agreements such as:

  • Embargo period (may not be longer than 12 months as mandated by NIH) 
    • This embargo period usually begins after the journal publication itself, not after electronic submission of pre-print ahead of publication in indexes such as MEDLINE.
  • Including a link to the journal's publisher and / or a link to the final formatted version on the journal's website
  • Including the DOI (digital object identifier) of the final version in your NIHMS-deposited manuscript
  • Pay attention to what version of the paper you are allowed to deposit to NIHMS: final peer-reviewed version or final journal-formatted version
  • Including a statement specified by the publisher
  • Including the full final citation of the published work

Look for these stipulations in the author instructions page at the journal's site, or look up your journal in the SHERPA/RoMEO database.


Copyright Concerns

It is important to address copyright issues before depositing a manuscript to the NIH Public Access Manuscript Submission system (NIHMS).

If you have signed a contract with a publisher transferring ALL rights to your manuscript to them, you may have to obtain permission to submit your manuscript to NIH for public access. Authors are urged by NIH to avoid signing such agreements, since they will not allow the author to comply with the policy.
The NIH provides sample language to request in future copyright agreements with journal publishers:

"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."

NOTE: This statement will be updated to reflect the change in the policy to immediate access in PubMed Central. We will update this guide accordingly at that time.

In most cases, journals will not impede you from depositing manuscripts to comply with the policy, but on rare occasions, If an author has submitted a manuscript to the NIH Public Access system that is copyrighted to a journal, the journal may request to have the material removed from the Public Access system.

For other information on copyright issues, please consult the NIH Policy's copyright page.

Please be aware that these are suggestions and guidelines as recommended by the NIH policy pages. They are not intended to be interpreted as legal counsel.

NIHMS process flow chart

(retrieved from


NIHMS process chart

Depositing Papers to NIHMS

Make sure you have the files necessary to deposit to NIHMS. You need to have all files for the paper, including:

  • The manuscript text itself (can be a Word document)
  • All figures and tables (these can be separate files or integrated with the text)
  • References
  • Appendices (if applicable)
  • Any supplemental information, if this information was included with the manuscript in the published version (this can be in any format)

What format files can you use?

  • Use the final, peer reviewed, edited version of the authors' copy of the manuscript files whenever possible
  • Do not use the journal-formatted final published version of the PDF, unless the journal allows you to submit the formatted version
  • The NIHMS system supports a wide variety of file types (MS Word, PDF, PowerPoint, Excel, various image types, etc.). It does not support LaTeX format.
  • Whenever possible, high-resolution images (i.e., .pdf, .tiff, .jpg, .eps, .ai) should be submitted to ensure the best reproduction quality in PubMed Central.

Log in to the NIHMS website

NIHMS Login page 

  • Authors / investigators / research assistants with eRA Commons user names:
    • Log in using the eRA Commons logo in the first row of logos OR
    • Click the All Login Options button to expand to more choices including (the most common eRA-linked login method)
  • Assistants / delegates without eRA Commons accounts:
    • You can login via other methods using the All Login Options button. Here you can search for your login method ( is also an option in this selection).
      • If your Commons or NCBI account is linked to your Northwestern credentials, use the More login options button to open a page where you can search for Northwestern and log in.


There are links to sign-in help and reminders on the bottom of the NIHMS login page.

After you've logged in

Your NIHMS "home page" has the My Manuscripts heading. In the main section of this page you will see any manuscripts that may be awaiting your attention.

Before submitting a new manuscript, it's wise to search the NIHMS system to see if your paper might already be in process, if it was deposited by a publisher or by a colleague.

On the right side of the page, use the search box under the Submit New Manuscript button to search NIHMS by PMID, PMCID or NIHMSID. Click the magnifying glass icon to search.

If your search doesn't retrieve any results, or if your paper doesn't have a PMID yet, you can simply click the Submit New Manuscript button to start the process of depositing your paper.

After starting the new manuscript submission process, you will be taken to a page to enter the paper's information. You have a few options.

  • Manually: Enter the manuscript's title and journal title - not recommended if you have the PMID or DOI available
  • Populate from:
    • Search for the manuscript in PubMed
      • Note: this is the best option if your paper is listed in PubMed
    • DOI - if you don't have the PMID but you do have the DOI from the journal, use this button
    • Search for the manuscript in your My NCBI My Bibliography

After adding the manuscript information, use the Next button at the bottom of the page to navigate through the rest of the submission steps: adding funding, uploading files, approving the upload.

There is a walkthrough "wizard" available when you click on the walking person icon. Use the Help link to go to the NCBI's help pages.

When uploading files:

  • For the manuscript file(s) you can upload text, tables and images all in one Word or PDF document, or you can upload figures and tables separately. Just make sure you put notation in the text file where each image or table should be, if they are not integrated.
  • Make sure you upload ALL the files associated with the paper, including all supplemental materials.

  • Remember that it is a violation of most publishers' copyright to upload the final copy-edited version of the manuscript from the journal, so it is best to upload the final corrected authors' version of the post-peer reviewed text and the original figures and tables. If you cannot access these files, you must ask the journal or publisher if you may upload their version to NIHMS.
  • Check the box to certify that you have uploaded all files associated with the publication.

The NIHMS has several tutorials for various stages of the sign-in and upload process, available through the link below.

After a manuscript is submitted to NIHMS

  • Either the PI or an author (person designated as "Reviewer" in the NIHMS system) will receive up to two e-mails from the NIHMS, prompting approval of the submission.
  • Submission approval includes verification of the manuscript files. The Reviewer must click on the uploaded files and open them before moving on to the next step.
  • Publisher-stipulated embargo periods may also be added, if the manuscript has been submitted by a third party. If you are uncertain of the length of embargo periods allowed by your publisher, you can go the "safe route" and specify 12 months from publication date, which is the maximum length of time currently allowed by the NIH policy. Note: this will change to immediate access in 2025.
  • Some weeks after the Reviewer's first approval, the final PMC format version of the file will be ready, and the Reviewer will receive a second email to view and approve this version. Final review of the web version before PMC posting is the final step of the approval process.

NIHMS sends reminder e-mails to the Reviewer if the initial requests for approval are overlooked. Authors should be aware that submission of the manuscript is not sufficient for compliance with the NIH mandate: Approval of the manuscript is necessary for full compliance.

If Publisher submits manuscripts for authors
PI/Submitting author/Reviewer will receive e-mails from NIHMS:

  1. Approve PDF Receipt : Reviewer is asked to review the PDF, confirm that it is the correct manuscript and enter grant information. NIHMS will then convert the PDF to a web-suitable version.
  2. Approve Web Version : Reviewer is prompted to do a final review of the web-formatted version to be posted to PMC.

If PI or an author deposits the paper to NIHMS themself
PI/Author/Designated Reviewer will receive only one e-mail from NIHMS:

  1. Approve Web Version : PI is prompted to do a final review of the web-formatted version to be posted to PMC.

If third party submits on behalf of PI/Author/Reviewer
PI/Reviewer will receive two e-mails from NIHMS:

  1. Approve PDF Receipt: Reviewer is asked to review the PDF, confirm that it is the correct manuscript, enter grant information and assign any publisher-stipulated embargo period (maximum of 12 months allowable by mandate). NIHMS will then convert the PDF to a web-suitable version.
  2. Approve Web Version: Reviewer is prompted to do a final review of the web-formatted version to be posted to PMC.

If you are submitting on behalf of an author or PI, be aware that only an author or principal investigator can be named as a Reviewer in the NIHMS system. A third party cannot be a Reviewer of the manuscript.