Going Open Access sees big jump in people reading IDS Bulletin

9 February 2017

IDS’ flagship publication, the IDS Bulletin, was re-launched as a open access journal in January 2016. The re-launch saw the production of the publication brought back in-house and a new purpose-built website was launched which would host all new issues as well as the entire archive, going back 48 years. One year later, statistics show a huge jump in article downloads from 77,000 to 393,000 and increased social media shares.

Formerly co-published with Wiley Blackwell, the world’s second largest journal publisher, the decision to take the IDS Bulletin back in-house and make it open access was part of a broader drive at IDS to improve engagement with our and our partners’ research by academic, practitioner and policy audiences. “Flipping” from a subscription-based to open access journal would make the IDS Bulletin more widely available to non-academic audiences and as well as researchers globally, including from countries such as India who cannot access journals through initiatives such as the Research4Life.

Downloads have increased by more than fivefold since going open access

Statistics found that total article downloads for the IDS Bulletin had increased from 77,000 in 2015 to 393,000 in 2016 - more than fivefold from when the journal was still subscription-based, whilst Altmetrics (which tracks online conversations about research) figures showed that articles are also being regularly shared on social media. 

We wanted to ensure that research around cutting policy issues was instantly available to researchers, policymakers and practitioners. The huge increase in article downloads and social media shares was far greater than we expected, and it shows that there is a real need for both quality and accessible research, which is what the new IDS Bulletin represents.” said Editor-in-Chief and IDS Director, Melissa Leach.

Beyond downloads, open access helps to bridge the discourse between academia, policy and practice

Jo Rowlands, Senior Global Programme Advisor on Governance and Institutional Accountability at Oxfam, said, “For me open access is part of staying up to date in your field as a practitioner… you have so little time to read academic material as a practitioner that when you find something you really want to read and you can’t get it [because it is behind a paywall], that’s annoying… you have to go and twist somebody’s arm who is in academia to somehow get hold of it for you.”  

In a survey run by IDS prior to the re-launch of the IDS Bulletin, 59% of respondents who came from academic, policy and practitioner backgrounds said “free access” was a key factor in determining whether or not they would engage with research evidence.

However, change does not come just from making material available freely online, as put by open access champion and Birkbeck lecturer, Martin Eve who spoke at the IDS Bulletin’s re-launch event last year.

Featuring perspectives on key development issues from the global South

In line with its strapline and central ambition, "Transforming Development Knowledge", the IDS Bulletin also seeks to feature perspectives on key development issues from the global South which are often neglected by traditional development studies journals.

Last year 50% of authors and co-authors were from the global South, assisted by the fact that when contributing to the IDS Bulletin they are not responsible for paying the prohibitive article processing fees normally applied by journals when publishing open access articles.

Editorial Advisory Board member, Eve Gray, Programme Director of the Scholarly Communication in Africa Programme said: “The IDS Bulletin’s development studies focus, along with the potential for leadership from the South, the ability to avoid expensive article processing charges and the open availability of what will be a very rich resource from the back catalogue, makes it stand out as an academic journal that is fit for purpose in the 21st century.”

What kind of impact has going open access had on your work or studies?

While we are delighted with the significant increase in article downloads, we also want to hear about people’s experiences and find out what kind of impact accessing this research may have on their work or studies.

Please help us by taking 15-20 minutes to complete this survey.