A sea change for World Bank publishing, global development

Last April 10, the World Bank announced it would be adopting an Open Access policy. This is an important milestone and, along with its Open Data Initiative and Access to Information Policy, a major building block of the bank’s Open Development agenda. This groundbreaking move culminated with the launch of the World Bank’s Open Knowledge Repository, or OKR.

In a nutshell, the Open Access policy requires that the bank’s research and knowledge products be deposited in the OKR and released with Creative Commons licenses — the most liberal license available — allowing the use, reuse, and adaptation of the material with no restrictions except for citing the source. This is a sea change, indeed.

As the World Bank’s publisher, this is important to me because it means that our research and knowledge will be more accessible and useful than ever before. The development impact of the bank’s knowledge will be greatly enhanced.

Even before this new Open Access policy was announced and, in fact, long before it, the World Bank’s publications had already been freely available through a variety of means. In 2011, the bank’s publications were accessed free of charge more than 5 million times via online channels, including Google Books, Scribd, Issuu, and the World Bank website.

So, what’s new and why should development professionals take notice? There are three fundamental differences in our approach to publishing that will make the bank’s research and knowledge products easier to discover, access, and reuse:

  • Aggregation. By launching the OKR, the bank has provided a central archive for its published outputs. Now, rather than hunting and pecking for that paper or journal article across countless individual web pages, a researcher can simply search for it in the OKR.

  • Discovery and access. The OKR was developed to comply with the Open Archives Initiative metadata and interoperability standards. Searching and downloading can be done through the OKR or third-party services like Google Scholar or other open-access repositories.

  • Innovation. By making the research and knowledge products published by the bank available under a Creative Commons license, anyone is free to use, reuse, and build upon the bank’s work in ways that can lead to innovative solutions to local development problems.

The World Bank is the pre-eminent source of development knowledge. We offer a wealth of research and knowledge products — from children’s education to old age security; climate change to the investment climate — and such data, research material and knowledge are now easier to access and use.

If the underlying and fundamental goal of the new Open Access policy and the OKR is to improve the development impact of the bank’s collective knowledge, then by extending and improving access to its research, millions more will be able to contribute to development progress. Now, anyone in the world can easily access and build upon World Bank knowledge — not just academics or those working at the bank.

Take, for example, the World Bank’s latest World Development Report on gender equality. This topic touches on all aspects of development, from economics and employment to health care and education. The new Open Access policy means that those working across a wide range of development areas can take the research and data from the report and incorporate it into their own advocacy and fundraising efforts. No permission or licensing fees are required and all the bank asks is that the user attributes the source. Content from that same report can be posted on websites, used in annual reports, shared with constituents and peers, and used to influence policy. If one is on the road and needs quick access to authoritative research, the OKR can be a go-to source.

This is where the Devex community can make a difference. Even if just a fraction of the Devex membership takes advantage of the benefits of the bank’s new Open Access policy and the OKR, we would have done well in putting the collective knowledge of the institution in the right hands in order to make a substantial development impact.

I hope that development professionals like you find long-term benefits to the OKR and will now more easily be able to find the research you need to help solve the world’s most pressing development challenges. I encourage you to use, reuse, and share it widely with others so we can reach our common goal: improving the lives of poor people around the world.

About the author

  • Carlos Rossel

    Carlos Rossel is the World Bank Group publisher and has more than 25 years of experience in international professional and scholarly publishing. To support the bank’s role as supplier of global knowledge, the Office of the Publisher works with departments across the institution to develop and publish a range of products that cover the full spectrum of economic and social development to decision-makers, academia, general audiences and other constituencies. Prior to assuming his current position, Rossel, a native of Santiago, Chile, was operations and marketing manager for the World Bank’s Office of the Publisher.