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NSF Public Access Policy

A guide to the Public Access Policy of the National Science Foundation. Provides an overview of the policy, along with steps for depositing a manuscript.

What is a PDF/A? And how do I make one?

PDF/A is a special, archival format. You will not be able to deposit a manuscript in NSF-PAR unless it is uploaded in this format.

There are many applications that can convert a document or PDF to PDF/A. Some suggestions are below, but remember methods may vary depending on the application, version, and operating system.

Two methods for converting from MS Word to PDF/A

MS Word → Print

  • Select “Printer” as Adobe PDF
  • Click “Printer Properties” and select PDF/A
  • Click OK and then Print

MS Word → Save as

  • In dialog box, under ‘File name” change “Save as type” to PDF
  • Click “options” button and check off PDF/A under “PDF Options”
  • Click OK and Save

Converting from PDF to PDF/A

  • Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
  • DOCUPUB Document Converter (found searching Google)
  • Many other options exist

Note: You may see a choice between PDF/A RGB & CMYK. Either is fine. RGB might be preferred for online viewing. These options only relate to how colors are modeled.

How do I find the DOI for a paper?

The first step in submitting to NSF-PAR is to provide a DOI. This is a Digital Object Identifier, a unique ID that identifies the specific article or proceeding you are depositing. Providing the DOI at this stage will save you a lot of work (otherwise you need to enter all information about the work manually) and will improve the accuracy of the information.

Note: DOIs look more or less like this: 10.1021/ic0352250

You can find a DOI in a number of ways.

  • Search CrossRef (click "search metadata" to run a search: 
    • CrossRef is the organization that assigns DOIs for most publishers. You can search for the DOI by title, journal, author, year, etc.
  • Search the web for the full-text of the article 
    • Even without full-text access, the DOI will generally appear with the title and author information.
  • Search a subject database 
    • Databases like PubMed or Web of Science will often include the DOI in the citation information - especially for recent articles.

What if I can't find the final, accepted version of the manuscript?

This can be a challenge especially if you are not an author on the paper, which is common for larger awards like training grants. In general, you should try to develop a method for collecting and managing these materials. The library is happy to work with you to come up with a method.

If you are stuck and can't locate this version, many publishers will allow you to upload the final, published version available from their web sites. You should contact them for permissions before uploading.

Is it possible to batch upload deposits to NSF-PAR?

It's not. Currently, deposits must be done one at a time. NSF has indicated that this option will be revisited in future iterations of the repository.

Does NSF require that articles cited in applications and proposals be in compliance with the policy?

No. The NSF policy only requires that articles cited in project reports be in compliance (deposited in NSF-PAR). There is currently no need to demonstrate compliance for any materials cited in applications or proposals.

Can my students/trainees deposit their papers to NSF-PAR themselves? Can I assign a delegate to deposit my papers?

Unfortunately, no. The deposit process includes an affirmation statement that can not be made by a third party. Only PIs and co-PIs are able to make these deposits while logged into their accounts.

What if manuscripts are associated with more than one NSF grant and PI? Do both PIs need to upload?

Manuscripts can and should be associated with multiple awards in order to appear in project reports. However, the manuscript only needs to be deposited once. Once it has been uploaded and associated with one award, co-authors with other NSF awards may associate their award with the metadata record. 

This is why it is important to use the unambiguous DOI to report a manuscript whenever it is available. It will make it easier for NSF to prevent any duplicate uploads.

Can I see what's in NSF-PAR?

Yes. Although, you do not deposit materials through the site itself, you can search the materials already deposited on the NSF-PAR web site.

You can search the repository by keyword (it's a full-text search for most materials!), NSF grant, author, etc. 


To provide feedback on this guide or to suggest a topic to cover, send an email.