It’s not uncommon for NIH-funded researchers to assume that the journal or publisher accepting their article will automatically send the final, published version to PubMed Central (PMC) to meet the public access requirement. Where some journals or publishers voluntarily submit articles, there is no legal obligation that they to do so. The result of this misunderstanding is that papers can slip into non-compliance unnoticed–until it’s time to submit progress reports.
Researchers can prevent non-submission compliance issues by asking themselves a number questions to determine who will submit their papers to PMC or the NIH Manuscript Submission System (NIHMS):
Does my journal have an arrangement with the NIH to send all accepted papers directly to PMC?
How to determine: Method A Journals list
These “Method A” journals (as the NIH calls them) will submit the final published version to PMC within 12 months of publication. Because of a prearranged agreement, the NIH considers Method A journal acceptance as proof of compliance. Researchers don’t need to take any actions beyond using the phrase “PMC Journal- In Process” on article citations until a PMCID is issued. These articles will show as compliant in awardees’ NCBI My Bibliography regardless of whether a PMCID has been issued.
Does my journal or publisher offer to submit my paper to PMC if I make an arrangement with them?
How to determine: Method B Journals/Publishers list, or check Author Information (see below)
Method B journals or publishers do not automatically submit articles to PMC but will do so if the authors make an arrangement (typically financial) with them. Often, these arrangements are couched as Open Access plans that, along with PMC submission, offer immediate open access to the article through the journal or publisher’s servers. (Please note that open access by itself does not meet the NIH’s public access requirement.) Regardless of whether there is a financial requirement, an awardee should track their paper’s PMC submission through their My Bibliography to ensure that it is in compliance by the time progress reports are due.
Will my journal or publisher submit my paper on my behalf at any point after publication?
How to determine: Author Information page found through a journal or publisher’s website
Many journals or publishers will voluntarily submit papers to PMC or the NIHMS on behalf of authors. During the process, the journal or publisher will select one of the authors to act as the quality assurance reviewer. That individual, in turn, will receive a notification that they need to approve the initial submission content and subsequent revised manuscript that will be uploaded to PMC. To avoid confusion or surprise, researchers should check their journal’s Author Information page to determine if this process is used.
Will I have to submit my article to PMC through the NIHMS?
How to determine: None of the above applies, or Author Information page
Sometimes journals or publishers will clearly indicate that authors or awardees are responsible for submitting their articles to PMC through the NIHMS to meet the requirement. Sometimes they won’t say a thing. It is recommended that authors assume they are responsible for submitting their article until proven otherwise.
For more information about the NIHMS submission process, please contact a public access compliance specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org.