Another question that is becoming common is about how to comply with the National Institute of Health Public Access Policy. The answer presented here was to an inquiry about an article accepted for publication in the journal “Nature,” whose policy about compliance is fairly well-publicized and easy to find. The specific steps that an author must taken to be sure they have the rights necessary to authorized deposit (or to be sure the journal will deposit for them) will vary with each publisher; where there is uncertainty about the policy or negotiations required, the answer will be much longer that this one.
Dear Professor _____________,
Congratulations on the paper! The first step in complying with the NIH public access policy is to be sure you retained the right to deposit the article when you signed a publication agreement. If you signed Nature’s usual author’s license, a copy of which is available here — http://www.nature.com/nature/authors/submissions/final/authorlicense .pdf — there will not be any problem. That license allows the author(s) to retain copyright, although it gives Nature an exclusive right to publish, and it specifies that the author can place the article in a funder’s open access database subject to a six-month embargo.
Assuming that this is the license you signed, your next step is to actually deposit the article in PubMed Central. You do this using the NIHMS system; there are instructions and links here — http://publicaccess.nih.gov/submit_process.htm . We are being told by those who have used it that the submission process is fairly easy and straightforward. Nevertheless, if you have any difficulties, just let me know and I or one of the librarians will be glad to come to your office and help you with it.
Once you have submitted the article, along with any supplemental material, all you have to do is wait. NIH will send you, or the principle investigator named on the appropriate grant if that is someone other than you, a final copy of the article as it will appear in PubMed Central for verification. It is important to review the article at that time to be sure everything is correct, just as you would do with the page proofs for the journal, and respond to that e-mail.
At some point in the process you will be asked to verify that you have the right to authorize PMC availability and to tell PMC about any embargo. As I said, if you signed the usual Nature license you do have the right to authorize availability and you should indicate a six month embargo. Even though you should submit your article immediately, it will not appear in the PMC database until six months after publication in Nature, in accordance with your license obligation.
For future reference in any paperwork submitted to the NIH, you will need to obtain the PMC ID number for your article. This helps NIH track compliance with the policy and is now required on renewal applications, progress reports and the like. Again, library staff can help you find this number if you have any difficulty.