How Papers Get Into PMC

A paper can get into PubMed Central (PMC) as either:

Here is an overview of these paths, followed by further explanation of possible variations in each one.

Papers that come directly to PMC All other papers, which go through the NIHMS to PMC
Version of paper deposited The journal’s final published version The author manuscript version, i.e., peer-reviewed manuscript as accepted for publication
Who can deposit? Only a publisher / journal that has a formal agreement with PMC. A funded author, author’s delegate, or publisher.
How does it work?

Note: In both cases, the article is assigned a unique identifier (PMCID) when it is loaded to PMC. However, the publisher or author may delay (embargo) its public availability in PMC for up to 12 months after publication
  1. Publisher sends article files to PMC in a PMC-specific format.
  2. PMC staff does a routine quality check of deposited files.
  3. Article is loaded to PMC.
  1. Publisher/author/delegate deposits manuscript files to the NIHMS System.
  2. Author associates funding with manuscript and approves it for processing.
  3. NIHMS converts files to a standard PMC format.
  4. Author approves converted, PMC-ready version.
  5. Manuscript is loaded to PMC.
Submission Format PMC-specific format (XML), including all referenced table, figure, and supplementary files, as agreed between PMC and publisher. Manuscript files (e.g., Word, PDF) as well as all referenced table, figure, and supplementary files.
Author action required? Normally, no. The deposit is a direct exchange between the publisher and PMC.

If a journal only deposits selected articles, the author may have to follow up with the journal regarding deposit to PMC.
An author must approve the manuscript for processing and later approve the PMC-ready version. See steps 2 and 4 of How does it work, above. An author may also start the deposit.
Other names for this path Documents on the NIH Public Access Policy site refer to this path as Methods A and B. Documents on the NIH Public Access Policy site refer to this path as Methods C and D.

PMC Participating Journals

A few thousand journals have agreements to deposit the final published versions of some or all of their articles directly in PMC. There are three kinds of agreement:

  • Full participation – journal deposits all its articles.
  • Selective deposit – journal / publisher chooses which articles to deposit. A number of publishers offer a program (e.g., Springer Open Choice, or Wiley Online Open) where an author has the option of paying a fee to make his/her article open access. Many publishers deposit these selected open access articles in PMC.
  • NIH portfolio – journal deposits just those articles that fall under the NIH Public Access Policy, i.e., are NIH funded. (Note: If you publish in an NIH Portfolio journal and your paper does not have NIH support, you will likely need to deposit the peer-reviewed, accepted manuscript to the NIHMS.)

The PMC Journal List page has participation details for each Full participation or NIH portfolio journal. The “Participation Level” column provides information on whether a journal is participating and at what agreement level. The “Free Access” column provides information on the length of a journal’s embargo. Authors who publish in journals that note an embargo period of more than 12 months should make special arrangements with the journal to ensure compliance with a funding agency’s public access policy.

The Special Collections tab on the PMC Journal List page has a list of publisher programs and journals covered by Selective deposit agreements. There is no guarantee that one of these publishers will deposit a specific funded article in PMC. Authors should confirm the deposit agreement status with the publisher.

Author Manuscripts

Many journals do not have any participation agreement with PMC. In that case, the supported author or PI on the grant is responsible for ensuring that the accepted, peer-reviewed manuscript called for by a funding agency’s public access policy is deposited to the NIHMS ( Only manuscripts that are covered by the public access policies of participating funding organizations can be deposited to the NIHMS.

Some publishers will initiate the NIHMS deposit process for an author, but the author must complete two approval steps to load the PMC-ready version to PMC (steps 2 and 4 of How does it work, in the table above). The author / PI is similarly responsible for the NIHMS approval steps if a delegate (e.g., library or administrative assistant) initiates the deposit process. PMC does not have formal agreements with publishers who initiate NIHMS deposits. Ultimately, a supported author or PI must ensure that a funded manuscript is deposited.

Determining How a Paper Should Be Submitted

The diagram below illustrates how authors can determine whether the publisher will deposit the final published version of an article directly in PMC or whether the author manuscript should be deposited in the NIHMS to comply with a funder’s public access policy.

Decision Tree for Paper Submission

*To determine if a journal participates in PMC, see the PMC Journal List (note the journal's participation level and embargo to ensure that your paper is covered by the agreement) or the NIH Public Access Policy Journal List if you have NIH funding. If you are still unsure whether your journal participates in PMC or if you need further assistance determining the submission method, please contact

Questions about the NIHMS system or author manuscript submission process should be sent to

A Note on NIH Public Access Terminology

The NIH Public Access Policy site uses these labels in its guidance to NIH-funded authors:

  • Method A: NIH-funded paper published in a full participation or NIH Portfolio journal
  • Method B: Arrangements made with Selective Deposit publishing programs to deposit paper in PMC
  • Method C: Author or PI deposits manuscript files in NIHMS and completes approval steps.
  • Method D: Publisher deposits manuscript files in NIHMS. Author or PI responsible for completing approval steps.

Methods A and B correspond to “Papers that come directly to PMC” and Methods C and D correspond to “All other papers, which go through NIHMS to PMC” in the table above.

Support Center

Last updated: Wed, 07 Jan 2015