PubMed Central (PMC) is a free resource that provides access to millions of peer-reviewed articles in the biomedical and life sciences field, mainly from the MEDLINE database. The archive is maintained by the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and allows authors and publishers to store and cross-reference information from several sources using a common format within a single platform.
Accepted papers can get to PMC in different ways: Published articles may be deposited to the repository by the publishers, but final peer-reviewed manuscripts can also be submitted to PMC directly by the authors through the NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system. There are four methods to ensure that all submitted papers comply with the NIH Public Access Policy:
- Method A: In this case, participating journals deposit final published articles directly in PMC without any author involvement.
- Method B: Some journals only submit selected articles to PMC. So, in this case, authors may need to ask the publishers to deposit the paper for them.
- Method C: Authors (or their delegates) upload final peer-reviewed manuscripts to the repository via the NIHMS system.
- Method D: Authors complete the submission of final peer-reviewed manuscripts started by a publisher through the NIHMS system.
All articles submitted to PMC receive a unique identifier —the PMCID— which can be used to cite them after acceptance. During the first three months, the PMC Journal- In Process (for methods A and B) or the NIHMSID (for methods C and D) identifiers can be used instead.
Submitting Papers to PMC
NIH-funded articles should be submitted to PMC immediately after being accepted by a journal; the manuscripts are made publicly available within 12 months of publication. The submission process is quite easy and fast:
For methods A and B:
- The publisher sends the article —including all tables, figures, and supporting information— to PMC in a specific format (XML). It is a good idea to check the copyright form when submitting a paper to a journal to verify that the publisher will be responsible for submitting the files to PMC. In some cases, the authors will have to ask the publisher to do so.
- The deposited files are then checked by the PMC staff.
- Finally, the paper is added to PMC.
For methods C and D:
- The author, a designee, or the publisher submits the manuscript file (in Word, PDF, or another format) together with all tables, figures, and supporting materials to the NIHMS system.
- The author then provides funding information, associates it with the manuscript, and finally approves the files for processing.
- NIHMS converts the submitted files to a PMC format.
- The author must then approve the converted version.
- After all the previous steps have been completed, the manuscript is added to PMC.
Many journals have agreements to deposit articles in PMC, some of them with full participation, others offering selective deposit, and others with an NIH portfolio agreement, which means that they only deposit NIH-funded articles. To help authors find out which method is supported by a particular journal, the NIH has published several lists on their homepage as well as additional information on how to submit a manuscript to PMC.
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