E-Newsletter - June 2018


NIH Public Access Policy Applies to Alliance Manuscripts

The Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology publishes an annual average of 65 manuscripts that discuss research funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants.  The NIH Public Access Policy requires that manuscripts based on NIH-funded research appear in PubMed Central (PMC) within 12 months after the official date of publication (i.e., 12 months after final print publication, or 12 months after electronic publication if a journal only publishes electronically). Failure to comply may result in withholding of federal funds to the Alliance.  Authors of Alliance manuscripts must ensure that their manuscripts appear PubMed Central in a timely fashion.

PMC is a digital repository that archives publicly accessible full-text articles from biomedical and life sciences journals. PMC is different from PubMed, a search engine that accesses the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts.  An article in PMC is identified by a PMCID, which consists of "PMC" followed by seven numbers.  The PubMed article identifier (PMID) uses eight digits with no alpha prefix. The NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system was developed to assist authors and publishers in depositing manuscripts into PMC. The NIHMSID is a six-digit preliminary article identifier that applies only to manuscripts deposited through the NIHMS system.

The publisher usually helps the author comply with the policy

The PMC defines four methods (A-D) that authors and publishers can use to facilitate the NIH policy. Publishers of Alliance manuscripts usually opt for Method A or a combination of Methods B and D. The methods vary in the degree of help the publisher provides to the author.

Method A: The publisher has an agreement with PMC to deposit published articles in PMC-specific format directly into PMC at no cost to the author. This may be at an NIH agreement level that requires the author to alert the publisher to NIH funding.

Method B: The publisher has a selective deposit agreement with PMC. The author must ask the publisher to deposit the published article in PMC-specific format directly into PMC, and usually must pay an open access fee.

Method C:  The publisher takes no action to assist the author, and has no agreement with PMC. 


Method D:  The publisher deposits the final peer-reviewed manuscript into the NIHMS system at no cost if the author alerts them to NIH funding. The publisher has no agreement with PMC.


Method A requires the least effort and expense from the author, since the publisher deposits the published article directly into PMC at no cost. The author should inform the publisher of NIH funding, since that information may be required.  Journals that use Method A include Annals of Oncology, Blood, Haematologica, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Neuro-Oncology, The Oncologist, and PLOS One.

Method B almost always requires author payment of an open access fee of $250-4,500, which Alliance does not reimburse, to deposit the published article into PMC. This method is optional for the author. Method B publishers of Alliance manuscripts usually offer Method D with no charge. Journals that use Method B plus Method D include Annals of Surgical Oncology, Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, Cancer, International Journal of Radiation Biology Physics, Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Journal of Thoracic Oncology, Leukemia & Lymphoma, and Supportive Care in Cancer. JAMA and JAMA Oncology are exceptions, since the publisher does not charge for using Method B and does not use Method D.

Method C requires the most effort from the author, who must deposit the final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript (not the published article) into PMC using the NIHMS system.  The author must also provide initial and final approvals in NIHMS.  Alliance authors publish in only a few journals that use Method C (e.g., American Journal of Roentgenology, Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network). 

In Method D, the publisher deposits the final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript (not the published article) into the NIHMS system.  The author must provide initial and final approvals in NIHMS. Some journals only offer Method D, including Clinical Cancer Research, Lancet, Lancet Haematology, Lancet Oncology, Leukemia, and New England Journal of Medicine; for these, the author cannot opt to pay for Method B.

Using the NIHMS system (i.e., Methods C and D), it usually requires six weeks to generate a PMCID. The NIHMS system reformats the manuscript and requires author approval at two stages. A PMCID is assigned when final approval is complete and the manuscript is matched to a PubMed record with complete citation information.

Manuscripts that are published in Method C and D journals and have NIHMSIDs are provisionally policy compliant within three months after the official date of publication. If a manuscript does not have a PMCID after three months, its status changes to ‘non-compliant’ until a PMCID is issued. The Alliance author is responsible for timely compliance.

The author must take action

If the publisher uses Methods A or D, the author must inform them at manuscript submission that NIH funded the research.


If the publisher uses Method C, the author must deposit the manuscript into the NIHMS system and provide initial and final approval.


If the publisher uses Method D, the author must provide initial and final approval of manuscript in the NIHMS system.

The Alliance publications team supports the process

When the Alliance publications team receives a manuscript for Group review, it asks the author for the intended journal. When the Alliance approves the reviewed manuscript, the team sends the author journal-specific policy compliance instructions. The team also asks to be alerted if the manuscript will be submitted to another journal; the team sends revised instructions.

When advised of manuscript acceptance, the team reminds the author if the publisher must be aware of NIH funding. If the author has not yet instructed the journal, it is important that it they communicate it at this time.

When a manuscript is published, the team: 

  • Reminds the author of actions to ensure compliance

  • Monitors manuscript appearance in the NIHMS system and PubMed Central

  • Corresponds with the author, NIHMS system, PubMed Central, journal and publisher about compliance issues.

Collaboration between the author, the publisher and the publications team ensures that obligations outlined in the NIH Public Access Policy are met.  

For questions about the process, contact the Alliance publications team: publications@alliancenctn.org.  



For other articles in this issue of the Alliance E-News newsletter, see below.