Tips for NIH Public Access Compliance: The NIH Public Access Embargo Period

The word embargo is often in the news but it comes up in the academic publishing world, too. “Embargo” can have different meanings depending on the context and that can create confusion.

Embargo periods related to the media

The New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Nature and other journals have embargo policies that allow qualified reporters to receive advance access to articles. This early access to the journals’ articles gives reporters time to conduct interviews with corresponding authors and prepare their news stories. In exchange, reporters agree under this policy not to broadcast their stories until the embargo period lifts.

In this case, the embargo period starts a few days before the article is published and it ends the night before or on the day when the article is published in print or on the journal website. When the embargo period is over, reporters can post their stories.

The NIH Public Access Policy embargo period

The embargo period as it applies to the NIH Public Access Policy is a bit different. Federal law specifies that the NIH-funded peer-reviewed manuscript be available to the public no later than 12 months after the official date of publication.

So in this case, the embargo period starts when the article is officially published and it ends up to 12 months later. When the embargo period is over, the public can read the NIH-funded manuscript for free, without a subscription, on PubMed Central.

What does this mean for researchers?

  • As with many other parts of the NIH Public Access Policy, the embargo period varies depending on the publisher/journal. Some journals only have embargo periods of 6 months, others have no embargo and the rest choose to use the maximum embargo of 12 months.
  • When completing the first approval step in the NIH Manuscript Submission System, the researcher must select the embargo period. The journals often list the time period on their websites under “Instructions for Authors.” If you need help finding the embargo period, please contact Cathy Sarli or Amy Suiter.
  • Remember that the embargo period is not how long it takes to get a PMCID.

For more information on the NIH Public Access Policy, please see

If you have questions or want to schedule a training, please contact Cathy Sarli or Amy Suiter.

If you have questions or need advice about talking to the media, please contact the Office of Medical Public Affairs: