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Open Access

NIH Public Access Policy


The NIH Public Access Policy ensures that the public has access to the published results of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research. It requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that result from taxpayer-funded NIH funds to the digital archive PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication.  To help advance science and improve human health, the Policy requires that these papers are accessible to the public on PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication.


The federal government spends billions of dollars annually to fund a wide variety of research in health, scientific, and other fields. Research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) alone results in approximately 80,000 peer-reviewed articles per year. Wide, rapid, and easy access to the results of this research is essential for everyone who wishes to apply or build upon it.
The traditional system of scholarly publishing severely limits access. The public pays for the research and very often the salary of the researcher, as well. Research articles are then published in peer-reviewed journals, which charge subscription fees or per-article access fees. The cost of subscriptions has risen three times faster than inflation for more than 20 years and most subscriptions are unaffordable for most libraries. Students, faculty, researchers, and the public -- including patients and parents of children with diseases -- effectively cannot read these articles that they paid for with their taxes.
Under the NIH Public Access Policy researchers must deposit the final peer-reviewed manuscripts of their articles in PubMed Central, the digital library of the National Library of Medicine, within 12 months of publication in a journal. When voluntary, fewer than 4 percent of eligible manuscripts were deposited. Both the Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine and NIH Public Access Working Group concluded, "The NIH Policy cannot achieve its stated goals unless deposit of manuscripts becomes mandatory." Since becoming mandatory via the Consolidated Appropriates Act 2008, deposit rates have climbed steadily, greatly increasing access to the latest research. This policy protects the system of peer-reviewed journals.

Current Legislation

H.R. 801, “The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,” was introduced on February 3, 2009 in the 111th Congress by Rep Conyers (D-MI), Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary.  The bill seeks to amend copyright code and create a new category of copyrighted works – and would effectively reverse the NIH Public Access Policy, as well as make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place. Ultimately, the bill rolls back the hard-fought progress on public access to taxpayer-funded NIH research accessible on the Internet.  The ALA strongly opposes H.R. 801 as the bill seeks to amend copyright law and reverse the NIH Public Access Policy.

Please see Copyright - Active Legislation and Advocacy to learn more about H.R. 801.


H.R. 6845, “The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act”
In the 110th Congress, Rep. Conyers introduced H.R. 6845, the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act.”  The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property held a hearing on September 11, 2008 on the bill. (A video webcast and a transcript of the hearing is available here.)  The bill ultimately died in the 110th Congress; however, the exact same text of H.R. 6845 re-emerged in the 111th Congress as H.R. 801.

Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA)


In an effort to expand access to peer-reviewed research, the Federal Research Public Access Act (S. 2695), would require that U.S. Government agencies with annual extramural research expenditures over $100 million make electronic manuscripts of journal articles resulting from their taxpayer-funded research available for free on the Internet. 


In the 109th Congress, a Senate bill, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (S. 2695), would have required Internet access to articles reporting on federally funded research. Libraries strongly supported the legislation and worked on its introduction through the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA) coalition. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security where it ultimately died.  A similar bill was not introduced during the 110th Congress.

Related Links

Open Access Web page Archive:
Open Access to Research
Open Access Archived News 2005
Open Access Archived News 2004