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New UNESCO policy embraces open access

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will make its digital publications available to millions of people around the world free-of-charge, with an open licence.

UNESCO is the first member of the United Nations to adopt such a policy for its publications. The new policy means that anyone will be able to download, translate, adapt, distribute and re-share UNESCO publications and data without paying.

According to the new policy, which was announced during the opening of the World Summit on the Information Society Forum in Geneva on 13 May, 'UNESCO strongly supports unrestricted Open Access (OA), which promotes the principle of openness, an essential element of progress. The importance of OA has been recognized both by other agencies and the private sector. The World Bank and the Wellcome Trust, for example, have implemented their own Open Access policies.'

'Researchers from all countries, but especially from developing and least developed countries will benefit and capitalize on Open Access to knowledge,' explained Janis Karklins, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for communication and information. 'Our new policy will enable us to increase the visibility, accessibility, and rapid distribution of our publications.'

From July 2013, hundreds of downloadable digital UNESCO publications will be available to users through a new open-access repository that has an interface in six languages. UNESCO says that resources it publishes on or after 1 June 2013  will be deposited in the repository immediately after the official date of publication.

For resources published by external publishers, UNESCO will request permission for free online access to the publication, but with restricted use (for non-commercial purposes and no derivative works allowed). The organisation says that it will 'respect an embargo period (if requested by the external publisher) that should generally not exceed 12 months'.

All new publications will be released with an open licence. Full details of the licence terms are not given in the policy but the document states, 'UNESCO’s Open Access Policy would grant an irrevocable worldwide right of access to copy, use, distribute, transmit, and make derivative works in any format within certain constraints.'

UNESCO also notes that 'Any material (such as images, illustrations, graphics, etc.) used within a publication will not be covered by the Policy, unless it is in the public domain (i.e. their use is completely unrestricted) or if the owner has decided to relinquish his or her rights.'