World Bank decides to make its research open access
“The World Bank is the frequent target of criticism, protests, and even riots. Critics feel the organization exerts a disproportionate influence on the economies and policies of less powerful nations. As a large, transnational bureaucracy it can be impenetrable at the best of times, moreso if those manning the fiduciary barricades are resistant to change. Perhaps it is the persistence and extravagance of its detractors, but for whatever reason, the World Bank is taking steps toward greater transparency. It announced yesterday that it would be instituting a new "Open Access policy for its research outputs and knowledge products" beginning July 1. The implications of this policy ‘for authors, enables the widest possible dissemination of their findings and, for readers, increases their ability to discover pertinent information.’ The policy's full title is ‘World Bank Open Access Policy for Formal Publications,’ and the Bank says it will apply to ‘manuscripts and all accompanying data sets... that result from research, analysis, economic and sector work, or development practice... that have undergone peer review or have been otherwise vetted and approved for release to the public; and... for which internal approval for release is given on or after July 1, 2012’, as well as the final reports prepared by outside parties for the Bank. As this policy's first phase, the World Bank has launched the Open Knowledge Repository, where all the Bank's public products will reside for public reading and download. The World Bank products covered by the new policy are by default to be published under a liberal Creative Commons license (CC BY). Third-person material will be licensed under a somewhat more restrictive policy (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). According to Creative Commons' Diane Peters, the Repository ‘reinforces scholarship norms’ and ‘has been built with an eye toward maximizing interoperability, discoverability, and reusability by complying with Dublin Core metadata standards and the Open Archives Initiatives protocol for metadata harvesting.’ Over 2,100 books and papers from 2009-2012 are already available in the Repository... The new policy and the Repository are the latest stages in the World Bank's efforts and openness. They were preceded by April 2010's Open Data Initiative, which allowed access to "more than 7,000 development indicators, as well as a wealth of information on World Bank projects and finances," and the Access to Information Policy (July 2010)... Only two months ago, the Federal Research Public Access Act was introduced in Congress. That act would ‘significantly shorten the waiting period between publication in a subscription journal and the point where a paper is made open access, dropping it from a year to six months. It would also expand the scope of the policy, applying it to any federal agency with a budget of $100 million or more.’ Quite aside from the benefits it may bring to the institution or organization willing to chance it, access is one of those habits-of-thought that seem difficult to reverse once they gain any kind of purchase on the public imagination. (Not that there isn't always someone who will try.) An exciting question which follows from this announcement is what kind of tools enterprising geeks might build on what could be an unprecedented amount of data on international economic development.