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Friday, January 11, 2008

Text of the NIH OA policy

Revised Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research, National Institutes of Health, January 11, 2008.  (Thanks to Mark Siegal.)  The new policy takes effect on April 7, 2008.  Here's the text in its entirety:


In accordance with Division G, Title II,  Section 218 of PL 110-161 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 ), the NIH voluntary Public Access Policy (NOT-OD-05-022) is now mandatory. The law states:

The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.


  1. The NIH Public Access Policy applies to all peer-reviewed articles that arise, in whole or in part, from direct costs[1] funded by NIH, or from NIH staff, that are accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008. 
  2. Institutions and investigators are responsible for ensuring that any publishing or copyright agreements concerning submitted articles fully comply with this Policy.
  3. PubMed Central (PMC) is the NIH digital archive of full-text, peer-reviewed journal articles.  Its content is publicly accessible and integrated with other databases.
  4. The final, peer-reviewed manuscript includes all graphics and supplemental materials that are associated with the article. 
  5. Beginning May 27, 2008, anyone submitting an application, proposal or progress report to the NIH must include the PMC or NIH Manuscript Submission reference number when citing applicable articles that arise from their NIH funded research.


Compliance with this Policy is a statutory requirement and a term and condition of the grant award and cooperative agreement, in accordance with the NIH Grants Policy Statement For contracts, NIH includes this requirement in all R&D solicitations and awards under Section H, Special Contract Requirements, in accordance with the Uniform Contract Format.

[1] Costs that can be specifically identified with a particular project or activity. NIH Grants Policy Statement, Rev. 12/2003.


  • This is beautifully strong and succinct.  Let me unpack it.  In an article earlier this month, I pointed out six policy details not resolved by the Congressional language, and left for the NIH to resolve according to its own judgment.  While the policy doesn't address any of them explicitly, it resolves most of them implicitly.  Here's a recap:
  • How will the NIH deal with conflicts between its OA mandate and the policies of publishers where NIH grantees may submit work?  The policy makes no exceptions for dissenting publishers, does not depend on publisher consent, and simply requires grantee compliance.  Point #2 clearly implies that if a publisher does not accommodate the NIH policy, and grantees cannot obtain special permission to comply with it, then they must look for another publisher.
  • What sanctions, if any, will the agency use for non-compliance?  It mentions no sanctions, but requires compliance (a "submission reference number") for progress reports and new grant applications.  The implication is that compliance is required to meet current funding obligations and also to be considered for future funding.
  • Will the policy apply retroactively to previous NIH grants?  If so, not yet.  Remember that the Wellcome Trust waited a year before applying its OA mandate retroactively to previously awarded but still outstanding grants.
  • Will the policy allow grantees to use grant funds to pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals?  The policy says nothing to modify the existing fee policy, which allows grantees to use grant funds for this purpose.  But NIH chose not to integrate them into the same policy.
  • Will the policy require OA for raw or refined data generated by NIH-funded research?  It applies to "all graphics and supplemental materials that are associated with the article."  At some journals this will include data files, but at most it will not.  In both cases, I'm guessing that the existing NIH data sharing policy will still apply.

Update.  Also see Gavin Baker's blog post on how well he predicted the resolution of these policy details.

Update.  The NIH has completely revamped its home page on public access, and the accompanying FAQ, to reflect the new mandatory policy.