Announcer: From the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, this is All About Grants.

Megan Columbus: Welcome to another edition of All About Grants. My name is Megan Columbus, and I'm with NIH's Office of Extramural Research.

Today we're here talking about understanding NIH's Public Access Policy. I have with me Dr. Neil Thakur, who is program manager for this policy. And he is from NIH's Office of Extramural Research and together with Dr. Bart Trawick. He's in charge of literature databases at the National Library of Medicine. Welcome.

Can we just start with a general description, Neil, maybe of what is the Public Access Policy?

Neil Thakur : Well, basically, we fund all of this fantastic research and we want to make sure the public has access to it. And so what the policy requires is that scientists submit their final peer‑reviewed manuscript to PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication.

Megan: PubMed Central being ‑‑

Neil: PubMed Central is a database of full text journal articles that Bart and his team wrote.

Megan: Out of the National Library of Medicine.

Neil: That's right.

Megan: Wonderful. So why do you think it's so important that we enforce and people comply with the Public Access Policy?

Neil: Well, two reasons. The first is that it's a congressional mandate. It's something that we're legally obligated to do. But, secondly, and this is interesting, when I was doing research, when I would write a paper, I would have in mind my audience. And it was, you know, a few hundred people, it was the people who would go to the meetings that I would go, whose papers I would read.

But as it turns out, there's a much broader audience of people who are interested in NIH research. It's engineers, it's clinicians, it's scientists in government labs, it's people in industry. People who may be producing research in your field or a field similar to you, but also people who read that research but don't necessarily produce research of their own. And as scientists we don't often know who those folks are.

But what we find is that when we put these papers on PubMed Central, they're widely read. So we have now over two and a half million papers on PubMed Central. And every week day we have over 700,000 users, almost three quarter of a million users and they are downloading over a million and a half articles every week day.

Megan: That's pretty amazing, isn't it?

Neil: Yeah

Megan: So as an investigator, what does this mean in terms of where I can publish? Can I publish anywhere I want?

Neil: Yes. This policy has been a requirement since 2008 and I'm not aware of any journal that prevents their authors from participating in the NIH policy. All that we ask is that the authors ensure, when they sign a publication agreement, that that agreement allows them to comply with the policy.

Megan: So the publication will be made publicly available within 12 months of ‑‑

Neil: Publication.

Megan: Of publication. Whether or not that journal would normally be an open access journal.

Neil: Correct.

Megan: What does it mean in terms of how I negotiate the copyright agreement with the journal? Do I have to do anything different?

Neil: So what it means is you have to make sure that you understand what you are signing on that publishing agreement and that generally wasn't the case, I think, for scientists for a long time.

You have to make sure it allows you to comply with the policy to post your manuscript to the PubMed Central. Or it could be that the journal wants to play some role in that process. So we have almost 1500 journals that will send the final published article directly to PubMed Central and you don't have to do anything.

Megan: That's convenient.

Neil: And that also can be specified in the publication agreement. There could be alternatives where the journal will send the final published article straight to PubMed, if you pay a fee and make some kind of special arrangement, so that's also an important. So there are different ways of doing. The authors need to understand what they're signing or the institution needs to step in and provide some kind of addendum or cover sheet or standard language that the author attaches to their publication agreement. Which is what NIH does for us as employees.

Megan: So you would suggest that authors check in with their Institutional Officials as they're embarking on any publication that's resulting from NIH funded research?

Neil: That's a really good idea. What I really recommend is that the authors sit down and they think about how they're going to comply with the policy as they plan the paper.

So just like they're figuring out, you know, who's going to do the tables, who's going to do the analysis. Someone needs to figure out who is going to make sure that the paper gets deposited, who's going to make sure that the publication agreement is in accordance with all of our rules.

Megan: So when people are submitting grant applications to NIH or are preparing reports on currently funded applications, how do they have to show compliance? How do they have to show that they've actually done what they needed to do?

Neil: Every time you cite a paper, in any kind of official communication to NIH, any kind of application or proposal or report, and you cite a paper that you authored and was submitted by NIH funds or arose from your grant, any paper that falls under the Public Access Policy, needs to include that PubMed Central ID at the end of the citation.

Megan: So when I submit by paper to PubMed Central, Bart's system is going to give me an ID number and then I'm going to be using that for basically my life of interacting with NIH.

Neil: Yes.

Megan: Okay.

Neil: That's the basics. There's some twists to it.

Megan: It's never that easy.

Neil: It's never that easy. So when you are ‑‑ you are supposed to submit your paper upon acceptance for publication. So when you cite your paper and it's in press, you also need to show evidence of compliance with the policy. But we can't give you a PubMed Central ID because there's no publication record to attach that ID to. So we have these interim identifiers that we can use. So if you submit your manuscript through Bart's information system, the NIH manuscript submission system, we will give you a NIHMS ID. And you can use that as a provisional ID until the PubMed Central ID is issued.

Or if you work through one of these publishers that will send the final published article directly to PubMed Central, obviously they can't do that until the article is about published, but we know who these journals are, they have agreements with us. And so you can just say PMC journal in process. So we know that you know how that paper is going to get into PubMed Central ‑‑ into PubMed Central.

Megan: What happens when there are multiple authors on a paper. And I'm not the lead author. What's my responsibility here?

Neil: Well, everyone is responsible for meeting their obligations as an NIH awardee. And so you can have multiple awardees as authors and so all of those awardees are equally responsible for getting that paper to PubMed Central, but only one has to do it. Or you could be the PI and your trainee or someone supported by your grant is an author on that paper. You're responsible for making sure that they follow‑up with the terms and condition of your award, because they're using your resources.

So, again, you have to make sure they do it or someone on that author team complies.

Megan: And so how's the institutional responsibility come in here? Is the institution, since they are actually the grantee responsible at all?

Neil: Yes, that's a good point. So, for example, now what we're introducing with our new policy is that if you submit a progress report and the progress report includes papers that are not in compliance with the Public Access Policy, we'll delay processing of that award, which means effectively that an award will not be funded until every paper is complying with the Public Access Policy. The award is to the institution. The institution is the one that's responsible.

That's on the hook.

Megan: Understood. So you just started referring to this new policy that's in place where we're going to start holding your continuation award.

Neil: Mm-hmm.

Megan: When is that ‑‑ when are we actually enforcing that?

Neil: That will take effect when the RPPR, our new progress report format, becomes a requirement. And we're targeting that for April of 2013. That's the very earliest date that will happen -- in April 2013. If we some reason have to delay the RPPR, then we'll delay the implementation of that policy.

The reason why we're doing that is because compliance monitoring methods and the RPPR are tied together because we're enhancing our IT systems.

Megan: Sounds good. Yeah, with the number of awards that we have, NIH needs all of the IT help that we can get so thank you, Bart.

There's a lot of moving pieces here and I can imagine that for some prolific authors or for some institutions that have a lot going on, this could be hard to keep track of. What systems are in place that can help me do this and where can I go to get help?

Neil: Well, the best place to get help is on our website, which is That lays out everything in terms of how to comply, what the rules are, where to get information, links to our help desk and so forth.

But the best way to manage what papers are in compliance, which papers are not, what their status is, is through My NCBI, the system Bart has developed, so perhaps you would like to talk about that is that.

Bart Trawick: So at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, we run these literature databases that deal with Public Access Policy directly. For instance, I'm sure people are familiar with PubMed, which is our database of citation abstracts. We also have PubMed Central, which is our full text archive. We also run the manuscript submission system, which takes manuscripts, processes them, so they are able to be archived in PubMed Central. On top of all of this, we offer My NCBI, which is a tool that allows researchers to track when their manuscript is going through the manuscript submission system and when it's finally been archived at PubMed Central.

Megan: Wonderful. And we're going to actually have a follow‑up podcast that's going to look a little bit more closely at NCBI and how authors and PIs can use NCBI to collaborate on Public Access.

Bart: That's right.

Megan: And so we look forward to doing that.

Is there anything else that you two would like to add that we didn't go over today that you think is important for our listeners?

Neil: I would think at this point, given that we have this change in how we're monitoring the policy and encouraging compliance, it would be really important for investigators and authors, too, to get on to My NCBI and make sure they review the Public Access compliance of every paper arising from their funding. That's the best way. That's the resource that we use to determine what's compliant and what's not compliant.

Megan: Great advice. Thank you both for joining us today. For NIH and OER, this is Megan Columbus.


Announcer: For more information on the NIH Public Access Policy, as well as links for My NCBI and PubMed Central, please visit There's also a companion webinar associated with this podcast. It can be found on the Public Access page via the Training/Communications tab.