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Open access and development: Research findings

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This blog post is a part of the International Open Access Week blog series

The goal of the Bank’s Open Agenda is to support development. In fact, several research findings show that Open Access leads to tremendous positive societal, academic and economic benefits. Today’s guest contributors, Duncan Omole, Knowledge and Information Officer, ITS Knowledge and Information with input from Eliza McLeod, Sr. Team Lead, ITS Knowledge and Information share some of these findings: 

  • Because OA articles are more visible, they receive anywhere from 25%-250% more citations for OA than Non-OA (NOA) articles in the same journal and year (Houghton and Sheehan, 2009).
  • Citations begin rising when an author starts making his or her work Open Access. The trend persists and increases with time (Research Libraries UK & Society of College, National and University Libraries, undated).  
  • Open Access enhances and accelerates the research cycle - where work is published, read, cited and then built upon by other researchers (Kuri, 2014; Ramaiah, Reddy and Kumar, 2007).  
  • By facilitating additional use, OA leads to substantial measurable positive returns on investment returns, in one instance about £58 million to £230 million over 30 years (net present value) (Beagrie & Houghton, 2014).  
  • OA enables entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) accelerate commercialization, innovation and discovery (The Finch Report, 2012; Mazzucato, 2011).  
  • OA is the answer to Research & Development (R&D)-based SMEs’ limitations to pay for journal subscriptions and publisher licensing restrictions which usually prevents them from using their local university’s electronic libraries to innovate (Swan, 2008; Ware, 2009).
  • The social case for OA is strong for advancing citizen engagement, and leveling the playing field for researchers in developing countries. This is as a result of the increased access (Tennant JP, Waldner F, Jacques DC et al., 2016).
  • OA maximizes prosperity effects. 60% reduction in the price of public sector spatial data in the Netherlands has been estimated to lead to a 40% annual turnover growth and employment growth of approximately 800 jobs (Pluijmers, 2002).
  • A report by the Computer and Communications Industry Association identifies a value of $4.7 trillion and $2.2 trillion in value added from fair use exceptions to US copyright law to the US economy. It employed more than 17 million people and supported a payroll of $1.2 trillion in 2007. Fair use companies generated $281 billion in exports the same year (Rogers, Szamosszegi, Capital Trade, 2010).
  • Economic modelling show that nations would enjoy savings from switching to Open Access at both national and institutional levels: £400 million a year for the UK and £500,000-600,000 per annum for a typical UK university (Houghton, Rasmussen and Sheehan et al, 2009; Swan, 2010).
  • A 1% to 10% increase in OA would have a recurring annual gain on the rate of return on R&D of 25% to 75% for all OECD countries (Houghton and Sheehan, 2006).
  • The Human Genome Project, based on the Bermuda OA Principles, has led to advanced personalized medicine and generated $141 in economic activity for every $1 invested by the U.S. government in the project.  The total related economic activity amounted to $796 billion between 1988 and 2010 (Wilson and Nicholls, 2015; Tripp and Grueber, 2011).
The benefits of OA as demonstrated in these studies bolsters the arguments to fight for Open Access to support economic growth and development.


Elisa Liberatori Prati

Chief Archivist, World Bank Group and and the Director of the Knowledge & Information Services Department in the Information & Technology Solutions (ITS) vice-presidency

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