Team Open

series one

series two


Carlos Rossel

How the World Bank opened its resources to the world.

Because of restrictive copyright policies, academic research is too often kept from serving its intended purpose of informing and improving the world. So it was exciting when the World Bank instituted an open access policy in 2012. The resulting Open Knowledge Repository has released thousands of publications freely under Creative Commons licenses.

“There have been over two million downloads since the launch of the repository,” says Carlos Rossel, leader of the Bank’s open access initiative. Additionally, Carlos has discovered that a large majority of academics he’s surveyed have assigned resources from the repository to their classes, a fact he attributes to the research’s free availability. Carlos says the authors are happy too. “They can see how many times —– and from where — their research articles have been downloaded.”

In April of 2012, the World Bank adopted an open access policy, requiring that all outputs and knowledge published by the Bank be licensed under Creative Commons licenses, which allow others to use and republish the research. Since then, the World Bank’s Open Knowledge Repository has released thousands of publications freely and openly and become one of the most important hubs for economic scholarship in the world.

Research produced in-house is licensed under the CC Attribution (CC BY) license, and works produced by third parties are under the more restrictive Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC BY-NC-ND) license. No matter which license it’s under, all of the research is openly available and free to read and download. There are now over 13,200 publications available for free download in the repository.

Carlos Rossel, publisher at the World Bank and leader of the Bank’s open access initiative, says that the reaction from staff and researchers to the open access policy has been very positive. “There have been over two million downloads since the launch of the repository,” says Carlos. “And the open access repository itself has been a benefit for authors, who can see how many times — and from where — their research articles have been downloaded.”

Carlos said that he recently took a look at the Open Knowledge Repository collection in preparation for a talk. He noticed that one of the books available there — a microfinance handbook — had been downloaded over 30,000 times from the repository. Since he was curious about how else the book might be distributed or used, he decided to do a Google search on the book, and noted within the first two pages of results that the book was also being hosted on another website. Carlos was pleased to see that the book is just getting out there via another channel — the point of research in the first place.

The Bank recently conducted a worldwide survey that asked several questions related to the its open access policy and Open Knowledge Repository. The results showed that 71% of academics surveyed had assigned resources from the repository as reading materials for their classes. Carlos assumes that these professors are creating course packs or otherwise directing their students to the free, openly-licensed materials on the Bank’s website, since they’re high-quality and free of charge. More generally, 74% of all respondents said they were more likely to use the content in the repository knowing that it was available for free under open licenses.

Simply providing free public access to publications is a huge benefit to the populations served by the Bank. Creative Commons licenses are making it easier for the publications to spread across the web and inform the work of future researchers.

Read more Team Open stories:
Government and policy

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Creative Commons License

Carlos Rossel (Team Open) was written by Timothy Vollmer for Creative Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The illustration of Carlos Rossel was created by Luke Surl. To the extent possible under the law, Luke Surl has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights under the CC0 Public Domain Declaration.