“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” K’ung Fu-tzu (Confucius) , circa 500 BC.
| Photo: istockphoto.com
The World Bank’s analytic work can lack transparency to users—not least for those who would be affected most by the policies derived from that work. Civil society groups often suspect that the Bank dresses up advocacy as analytics. This perception stems in no small measure from the large entry costs users face in replicating and understanding the analysis.
This concern about how we do research at the Bank—and elsewhere—can be thought of as the outcome of a traditional “retailing model.” That means researchers investigate a specific issue over a period of time and produce a research product—a paper or volume—on their findings. This is then disseminated to the public, including other researchers and policy makers.
Much has changed since this retailing model first emerged. Dramatic changes in information technology have expanded the use of data, which makes more openness in research feasible.
It is time, then, to think about a new “wholesaling model,” under which the emphasis switches to producing the tools for others to do the research and providing open access to those tools.