Accessing Publications

As part of the funding requirements for the HEALing Communities Study, all papers produced as part of the effort are intended to be open access, meaning they do not require payment or affiliation with a university to read.

However, that does not mean that all papers will be open access beginning on the first day they are published, and it does not mean that the free versions are easy to find.

The NIH Public Access Policy implements Division F Section 217 of PL111-8 (Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009). The law states:

The Director of the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) shall require in the current fiscal year and thereafter that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, that the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.

While journals have different polices and website designs, there are a few things to look for when trying to locate the open access versions of papers.

  1. Links to papers will often first present a summary version of the paper that provides only highlights or snippets of the full publication. It is often not possible to share a link to the free version because accessing the free version creates a unique key for each user.
  2. When viewing the free summary of a paper, look for links that say things such as “view open manuscript” or “download PDF.” The open access versions of papers are often available as PDFs, rather than webpages.
  3. Even if a paper is not yet available in an open access format, it is sometimes still possible to read it. If you have an affiliation with an institution, such as a university, you may be able to log in to a journal’s website to view the content.
  4. In some cases, it is possible to request a free copy of an individual paper. Policies on this vary from one journal to the next, but some publishers, such as Elsevier, accept requests for patient and caregiver access to papers. Searching for the journal’s name along with the phrase “patient access” is a good place to start looking for this kind of option.
  5. Failing these options, you may need to come back at a later date to see whether the paper you are interested in has moved to open access status.