World Bank Provides Open Access to Research

12 April 2012

The World Bank April 10 announced that it has consolidated more than 2,000 books, articles, reports and research papers in a search-engine friendly Open Knowledge Repository.

The Bankwill allow the public “to distribute, reuse and build upon much of its work—including commercially.”

The Bank said it is “the first major international organization to require open access under copyright licensing from Creative Commons—a non-profit organization whose copyright licenses are designed to accommodate the expanded access to information afforded by the Internet.”

“The repository and Creative Commons licenses are part of a new open access policy that takes effect on July 1 and will be phased in over the next year,” the Bank announcement said. “The policy formalizes the Bank’s practice of making research outputs and knowledge products freely available online, but now much of that content can be shared and reused freely, if the Bank is credited for the original work.

“I think it’s an important and extremely valuable signal,” said Lawrence Lessig, Harvard law professor and a founder of Creative Commons, of the Bank’s open access policy. “The objective of Creative Commons is simply to make it easier for people to signal the freedoms they intend their work to carry, and that seems consistent with the model the World Bank is trying to do. We’re happy they are taking the lead and making that a part of their mission.”

Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Open Access Project, said the Bank’s new policy is “pioneering” in its adoption of Creative Commons licenses. “I’m delighted to see a major institution like the World Bank push the boundaries and not just make their work free of charge, but also free for use and reuse.”

The Bank announcement provides more details and includes comments from other experts.

Besides the new Open Access policy, the Bank also pointed to its decision in April 2010 to stop selling its World Development Indicators data and instead make it freely available, along with more than 60 other datasets. “That move helped the Bank become a transparency leader among institutions last year. The Bank’s open data site has attracted over 11.5 million visits since April 2010 and is now the Bank’s most popular website, accounting for almost one-third of all web traffic.”

The World Bank also recently launched a new version of the DataBank application, for exploring, analyzing and sharing the popular collection of more than 8,000 social and economic development indicators.

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Filed under: IFTI Watch

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In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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