The National Institutes of Health is the largest funder of medical research in the world, funding hundreds of research projects every year. The researchers who benefit typically publish their results in high-cost subscription-based scientific journals. This renders them inaccessible to the public and to many libraries. Since taxpayers indirectly fund these research projects, laws were changed to ensure public access to the results of government-funded research. The solution to breaking down the barrier between people and published research was to pass a law requiring NIH-funded researchers to post their articles in a free online library, PubMed Central. The “NIH Public Access Policy” ensures the public’s access to published results of NIH-funded research; but publishers won the concession that release may be delayed (embargoed) at their discretion– though in most cases, for no longer than one year.
Researchers who receive funding from the National Institutes of Health must submit the final, peer-reviewed manuscripts of their journal articles to PubMed Central. Manuscripts must be submitted immediately upon acceptance for publication and must be accessible to the public no later than 12 months after the article is published in a journal.
The policy applies to all peer-reviewed journal articles accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008 and that arise from any of the following:
To comply, you need to do three things:
** If you receive $500,000 or more in a year, you must also include a data management plan for sharing your final research data.
Publishers often take all your copyrights when you agree to publish in their journal. You need to work with your publisher before you sign any publication contract to ensure the publishing contract allows you to deposit your article in PMC. Your agreement with a publisher should stipulate:
Individual copyright agreements can take many forms. You should consult your institution’s legal counsel to see if it has any specific policies or contract addenda. If your institution does not offer specific legal language to attach to your contract, you will need to at least include something similar to NIH’s suggested addendum:
Journal acknowledges that Author retains the right to provide a copy of the final peer-reviewed 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.
Many universities recommend using the SPARC Author Addendum generator to create a print addendum to your publishing agreement that will enable you to comply with the NIH requirement. It can also create language to secure additional copyrights (for distributing copies in classes, posting on a personal and/or institutional website, etc.)