World Bank Announces Open Access Policy for Research and Knowledge, Launches Open Knowledge Repository

April 10, 2012

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2012 - The World Bank today announced that it will implement a new Open Access policy for its research outputs and knowledge products, effective July 1, 2012. The new policy builds on recent efforts to increase access to information at the World Bank and to make its research as widely available as possible. As the first phase of this policy, the Bank launched today a new Open Knowledge Repository and adopted a set of Creative Commons copyright licenses.

The new Open Access policy, which will be rolled out in phases in the coming year, formalizes the Bank’s practice of making research and knowledge freely available online. Now anybody is free to use, re-use and redistribute most of the Bank's knowledge products and research outputs for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

“Knowledge is power,” World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick said. “Making our knowledge widely and readily available will empower others to come up with solutions to the world’s toughest problems. Our new Open Access policy is the natural evolution for a World Bank that is opening up more and more."

The policy will also apply to Bank research published with third party publishers including the institution’s two journals—World Bank Research Observer (WBRO) and World Bank Economic Review (WBER)—which are published by Oxford University Press, but in accordance with the terms of third party publisher agreements. The Bank will respect publishing embargoes, but expects the amount of time it takes for externally published Bank content to be included in its institutional repository to diminish over time.

In support of the new Open Access Policy, the World Bank is adopting a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) copyright license for content published by the Bank, the most accommodating of all licenses offered by Creative Commons. It allows anyone to distribute, reuse, and build upon the Bank’s published work, even commercially, as long as the Bank is given credit for the original creation. The CC BY license helps the Bank to maximize its impact while simultaneously protecting the Bank's reputation and the integrity of its content.

World Bank content published by third party publishers will be available in the Open Knowledge Repository under a more restrictive Creative Commons license. The new copyright practice goes into effect today.

While much of the Bank’s research outputs and knowledge products have been available for free on the institution’s web site, and on other channels, the new Open Access policy marks a significant shift in how Bank content is disseminated and shared. For the first time, the Bank will have an aggregated portal to research and knowledge products, where the metadata is curated, the content is discoverable and easily downloaded, and third parties are free to use, reuse, and build on it.

“Allowing unfettered access to the Bank’s trove of development knowledge is commendable”, said Cathy Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons. “For researchers, it increases the visibility, usage, and impact of their work. For users, it allows for the discovery of knowledge and encourages the open interchange of ideas.”

The Open Knowledge Repository, the centerpiece of the policy, is the new home for all of the World Bank’s research outputs and knowledge products. The Repository currently contains works from 2009-2012 (more than 2,100 books and papers) across a wide range of topics and all regions of the world. This includes the World Development Report, and other annual flagship publications, academic books, practitioner volumes, and the Bank’s publicly disclosed country studies and analytical reports. The repository also contains journal articles from 2007-2010 from the two World Bank journals WBRO and WBER.

The repository will be updated regularly with new publications and research products, as well as with content published prior to 2009. Starting in 2013, the repository will also provide links to datasets associated with research. While the vast majority of the works are published in English, over time translated editions will also be added.

The Open Knowledge Repository is interoperable with other repositories and will support optimal discoverability and re-usability of the content by complying with Dublin Core metadata standards and the Open Archives Initiatives protocol for metadata harvesting.

“This new policy is a natural extension of our other efforts to make the Bank more open, including the Open Data Initiative and the landmark Access to Information Policy”, said Caroline Anstey, World Bank Managing Director. “Anyone with Internet access will have much greater access to the World Bank’s knowledge. And for those without internet access, there is now unlimited potential for intermediaries to reuse and repurpose our content for new languages, platforms and media, further democratizing development by getting information into the hands of all those who may benefit from it.”

The new Open Access policy and launch of the Open Knowledge Repository represent the next major development in the World Bank’s Open Development Agenda. The first two initiatives were:

  • Open Data Initiative (launched in April 2010): a range of reforms enabling free access to more than 7,000 development indicators, as well as a wealth of information on World Bank projects and finances, and
  • Access to Information Policy (launched in July 2010): a groundbreaking change in how the World Bank makes information available to the public.
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