WHO’s vision for information sharing
Dr Najeeb Al Shorbaji, Director, Knowledge, Ethics and Research:
“Health is an information-driven and knowledge-based sector. Without evidence-based, timely, up- to-date, relevant, easy-to-use, and affordable information, the health-care provider will not be effective in delivering health care to those who need it.
Access to information is a basic human right; information empowers people to make better decisions about their own lives, families and communities. Information is power, but it can function in this way only if it is shared and used. The WHO Constitution states:
‘The extension to all people of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health. Informed opinion and active co-operation on the part of the public are of the utmost importance in the improvement of the health of the people’.
Information is the foundation for WHO as a knowledge-based Organization. Managing this asset requires strategic approaches and policies to support the generation, sharing and use of information. For information to support policy and decision making, enhance transparency and improve accountability, it must be timely, accurate and complete. Knowledge generated with public funds should be accessible to everyone, without any restrictions – this has been the driver in the development of the outputs to reform information sharing in WHO”.
New policy for WHO-authored or WHO-funded research published in journals and books
A new policy on open access will be announced in January 2014 and come into force in July 2014. The policy will apply to all WHO-authored or WHO-funded research published in non-WHO publications, such as external journals and books.
Although information WHO publishes has been freely available through the WHO website, work published by WHO staff and reports of research funded by WHO published in external journals has often been accessible only through the payment of subscriptions or other fees. Open access takes advantage of digital publishing and the internet to ensure that published research is widely disseminated and freely available.
Any reader with access to the internet can find and read a whole article. Researchers and policy-makers can find and combine information without having to seek permission and pay to reproduce a graph or table. Information can be automatically brought together on websites and platforms, making the management of information more efficient.
As subscription barriers to access will be removed for everyone, WHO-authored and WHO-funded work will gain much wider visibility and impact.
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Advanced access with IRIS
The Institutional Repository for Information Sharing (IRIS), created in 2012, enables more people to access WHO’s information products. IRIS is the multilingual digital library of WHO, providing free access to the full text of WHO information products in the six official languages.
Previously, much of this information was simply inaccessible, unavailable on an open-access platform, or hard to find, stored at multiple locations, using outdated tools with inadequate search functions. Now scientific and technical reports, governing bodies documents, and many other publications have been brought together and can be accessed from anywhere through the WHO website.
IRIS is compatible with search engines such as Google. Searchers can do simple and advanced searches and browse the content by date, author, title or subject. Results and full text can be sorted in many ways and displayed.
More than 50 000 documents are currently available, and the number is increasing rapidly with the addition of many collections, such as the entire historical set of governing bodies documentation from 1948 onwards, which will be fully available by the end of 2014.
IRIS is recording more than 1.5 million downloads per month and will soon be available as a mobile app.