World bank announces open access policy

feature-img-okr-infographicTwo years after opening its vast storehouse of data to the public, the World Bank is consolidating more than 2,000 books, articles, reports and research papers in a search-engine friendly Open Knowledge Repository, and allowing the public to distribute, reuse and build upon much of its work—including commercially.

The repository, launched today, is a one-stop-shop for most of the Bank’s research outputs and knowledge products, providing free and unrestricted access to students, libraries, government officials and anyone interested in the Bank’s knowledge. Additional material, including foreign language editions and links to datasets, will be added in the coming year.

And, in a bid to promote knowledge-sharing around the world, the Bank has become 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 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.

In addition, the author versions of articles published by commercial publishers and currently available only to journal subscribers will be made freely available via the public repository after embargo periods elapse, though their reuse will be more restricted than Bank-published material. Articles from 2007-2010 that appeared in the World Bank Research Observer and World Bank Economic Review (published by Oxford University Press), for example, are now in the repository.

“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.”

“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.”

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