Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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The UK International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, announced yesterday that DFID has a new open access policy, which will require all researchers receiving DFID funding to make their findings available for free online. Publishing results in journals or websites that charge for access will no longer cut it because this prices out some groups, including many scientists in developing countries, from benefiting from the findings. The policy includes a requirement that all underlying data be made available within 12 months of collection.

Earlier this month the World Bank released its own open access policy to make World Bank research freely available (a logical move as Bill Savedoff explains here), as well as re-usable. The policy is clear that all research, including manuscripts accompanying data, by World Bank staff will be made available for free (the Bank has launched an impressive Open Knowledge Repository to make access as easy as possible for all audiences) although it only applies to the final product for external research funded by the World Bank.

Not only publishing in open-access journals but making raw data available are necessary to ensure that research gets examined and put to use. CGD formalized its own data transparency policy last year, as David Roodman explains here, based on the principle that we produce social science research and science should be replicable. CGD researchers publish all data and codes underlying our work on our website so that we can expose it to scrutiny, thereby improving its quality and increasing its impact.

Too much good research is underused because others don’t have access to it or can’t be sure of its quality. Open access policies will help researchers and policymakers use and build upon existing knowledge to shape programs that will affect people’s lives.

All of these policies are about maximizing the ability of research to serve the public good. Let’s hope the trend continues.