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SPECIAL UPDATE: Voluntary Public Access at NIH

(Posted 2-7-05)

This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) held a 30 minute telephone press conference on 3 February 2005 to unveil their new policy on public access to federally funded scientific research and respond to a few questions. The new policy requests any author whose research received any direct support from NIH-funding to submit their accepted, but not necessarily edited, manuscripts related to that research to PubMed Central, the digital library maintained by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) within 12 months of acceptance. PubMed Central will post the paper within 12 months of the final publication date. This new policy is voluntary and allows for a longer time period from publication to posting than the previously suggested 6 month period. Although this new policy will only affect NIH-funded research, it will probably influence the future of publication and dissemination practices for all federally-funded scientists, publishers and funding agencies.

The new policy is stated on the NIH site at:


As stated in the NIH press release, the new policy will be as follows:

"Beginning May 2, 2005, the policy requests that NIH-funded scientists submit an electronic version of the author's final manuscript, upon acceptance for publication, resulting from research supported in whole or in part by NIH. The author's final manuscript is defined as the final version accepted for journal publication, and includes all modifications from the publishing peer review process.

The policy gives authors the flexibility to designate a specific time frame for public release - ranging from immediate public access after final publication to a 12 month delay - when they submit their manuscripts to NIH. Authors are strongly encouraged to exercise their right to specify that their articles will be publicly available through PubMed Central (PMC) as soon as possible. "

The policy changes the initially proposed requirement to post manuscripts on PubMed Central within 6 months of publication to a more flexible and variable 0 to 12 months of publication. Publication is also defined as the final publication date specified by the journal, which allows journals that post express online versions to extend the time period to the final publication date of their print or final online versions. The policy only requests authors to submit their manuscripts, it does not require them to do so and there are no specific penalties for authors who do not comply with the policy. One incentive for an author to voluntarily comply is that the submitted manuscript can be used as an alternative to submitting a progress report to NIH. The policy also allows publishers to submit a published version of the paper to supersede the author's accepted version and regardless of which version is posted, NIH will provide a link to the journal in which the paper was published. During the telephone press conference, there were questions about whether the policy is contrary to copyright law and whether conflict of interest statements that are required by some publishers will be required of authors who submit accepted manuscripts. NIH is considering these matters and will provide answers in the near future. There was also concern about whether this policy puts the author in a difficult situation between publishers and NIH. To help address this and other concerns, NLM will form a Public Access Advisory Working Group to monitor how the new policy is working.

Additional questions or concerns about the new policy can be mailed to Office of Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health, 6705 Rockledge Drive, Room 350, Bethesda, MD 20892-7963 or emailed to

There were 2 special updates in 2004 on public access at NIH in the GAP archives that provide more relevant background on this issue. has more information about how Congress requested NIH to develop a new policy and has more background on how and why this may influence future publication and dissemination practices for non-NIH funded work.

Special update prepared by Linda Rowan, AGI Director of Government Affairs and Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program

Sources: National Institutes of Health.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted February 7, 2005

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