Syndicate content

A Sea Change for World Bank Publishing

Carlos Rossel's picture

On April 10th the World Bank announced that it is adopting an open access (OA) policy that requires that all research and knowledge products written by staff, and the associated datasets that underpin the research, be deposited in an open access repository and that these works be released under a Creative Commons (CC) license. Also on this date the Bank launched the new open access repository, the Open Knowledge Repository (OKR). This represents a sea change in the Bank’s approach to publishing, builds on the Open Data initiative and the Access to Information policy implemented in 2010, and is another cornerstone in the Bank’s move toward ever-greater openness and its focus on results and accountability.

The OA policy requires that research and knowledge products authored by staff and published by the Bank, and the associated datasets, be deposited in the OKR upon publication and that the work and datasets be released under the most liberal CC license, the attribution, or CC BY, license. If the work is published by a third party publisher, the policy requires that the final word-processed version of the manuscript, and the associated datasets, be deposited in the OKR upon acceptance by the publisher and that it be immediately available to Bank staff. The work will be available to the public after the publisher’s embargo, but under the more restrictive “non-commercial, no derivatives” CC license, the CC BY-NC-ND.

With the launch of the OKR, and for the first time, the Bank has an open access repository that meets the Open Archives Initiative standards for metadata and interoperability, that aggregates all Bank research and knowledge products, that makes it easier to discover and download the works for free, and that allows third parties to use, reuse, and build on the works.

The Bank is the first major international organization to require open access to its research and knowledge products under Creative Commons licensing. If the Bank publishes the work, the OA policy allows anyone to read, download, reuse, and build upon the work free of charge and with no restrictions except proper attribution.

The Bank's publications have long been freely available through a variety of channels. For example, in 2011 the Bank's publications were freely accessed more than 5 million times through services that include Google Books, Scribd, Issuu, and the Bank's website. So, what's new and why should the Bank's stakeholders take notice?

There are three fundamental changes to our approach to publishing that will make the Bank's research and knowledge products easier to discover, access, and reuse, and which I believe will lead to greater impact through the increased use of the Bank’s knowledge and through creative and innovative reuse of that knowledge by third parties:

  1. Aggregation. The OA policy mandates that all research and knowledge products and associated datasets, whether published by the Bank or through a third party publisher, be deposited in the OKR. There is an initiative underway to capture and catalog knowledge products not deposited in the central repository and to make many of these available through the OKR. We have already catalogued over one thousand research articles authored by Bank staff but published in external journals in the OKR. Publication of these articles predates the OA policy so, while the actual content does not reside in the OKR, the full metadata and link to the articles on external services are provided. Starting in July 2012, the research articles accepted for publication will be deposited in the OKR. We have started linking some works in the OKR to the associated datasets catalogued in the Bank’s Open Data site.
  2. Discovery and Access. The OKR has been developed to comply with the Open Archives Initiative metadata and interoperability standards. The Bank now has an aggregated portal for Bank research and knowledge products where the metadata is curated and the content is easily discovered and downloaded. The search and download of this content can be through the OKR or through third party services like Google Scholar and other open access discovery tools.
  3. Innovation. By making the research and knowledge products published by the Bank available under the CC BY license and by making them available in reusable formats, third parties are free to use, reuse, and build upon the Bank’s work in ways that can lead to innovative solutions to local development problems.  


The implementation of the 3-elments of open access, an OA policy, the adoption of CC licensing, and the launch of the OKR represent a fundamental shift in the Bank’s approach to publishing, and is further evidence of  the Bank’s move toward ever-greater openness and focus on results and accountability.

Follow PublicSphereWB on Twitter

Add new comment