, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 343-368
Date: 03 Dec 2011

The World Bank’s publication record

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The World Bank claims to be a “knowledge bank,” but do its knowledge products influence development thinking, or is the Bank merely a proselytizer? The World Bank is a prolific publisher; for example, it has published more journal articles in economics than any university except Harvard. But what about their impact on development thinking? Using citation data from Google Scholar it is hard to discern more than a negligible impact for a great many Bank publications. However, a sizeable minority of its journal articles and books have been highly cited. Compared to leading research universities and other international institutions, the Bank’s ranking in terms of widely-used citation-based indices is no lower than for its journal article counts. This suggests that the Bank’s research does much more than proselytize.

We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Qinghua Zhao; without his programming skills this paper would have been substantially less interesting. We are also grateful to Imran Hafiz for help in retrieving data from online databases, and to Trinie Angeles for assembling the database of research staff. We are grateful for helpful comments to this journal’s editor, two anonymous referees, Angus Deaton, Asli Demirguc-Kunt, Francisco Ferreira, Deon Filmer, Bernard Hoekman, Martin Rama, Lyn Squire, Dominique van de Walle, Colin Xu, and Jane Zhang. The views expressed here are those of the authors and need not reflect those of the World Bank, its Executive Directors, or the countries they represent.