Improving access to development research from IDS and beyond

23 March 2015

IDS is celebrating the milestone achievement of one million downloads from its new open access digital library of development research – IDS OpenDocs.

Image: 'Somalia, Mogadishu. Two students from Mogadishu University use a laptop as they study at home.' (Sven Torfinn / Panos)

IDS OpenDocs is an open access repository of development research from the IDS research community and the digital arm of the British Library for Development Studies’ (BLDS) based at IDS. OpenDocs enables anyone with an internet connection to search and read full-text publications from our collection of developing country research. It is free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. This repository significantly extends the reach of our and our partners’ research and evidence. It hosts collections from our key research centres and research consortia as well as the BLDS Digital Library containing over 3000 full-text publications from research organisations in Africa and Asia. With publications dating back to the 1940s, IDS OpenDocs is a unique resource for students of international development studies and those interested in the history of development.

Since May 2013 over one million research and policy outputs including reports, papers, briefings, journal articles and book chapters have been downloaded from the repository. The majority of publications in IDS OpenDocs are made available through a Creative Commons licence which enables future sharing and dissemination of this content, by others as well as ourselves.

James Georgalakis, IDS Director of Communications and Impact said: ‘IDS is committed to using innovative digital technology to deliver free and open content that can influence positive social and economic change. IDS OpenDocs is successfully breaking down barriers to the availability of research evidence and presenting diverse perspectives on development issues. It has quickly become an essential resource for all those wishing to explore the rigorous research-based knowledge that IDS and its partners in the global south have to offer.’

IDS research community on OpenDocs

The IDS Research Community section contains publications by IDS staff and research partners from associated programmes and consortia. It is constantly being developed and currently includes collections such as the Strengthening Evidence Based Policy Programme, the International Centre for Tax and Development and the ESRC STEPS Centre. It also contains the Robert Chambers Archive, a complete bibliography spanning four decades of research on participatory development. Next year IDS will celebrate its fiftieth birthday by adding to OpenDocs the entire back catalogue of its flagship journal the IDS Bulletin.

Helping developing country research reach a global audience

The BLDS Digital Library section of OpenDocs contains full-text copies of publications from developing country research institutes, made available online through partnership agreements between these institutes and BLDS. The Digital Library now comprises over 3800 documents from 24 organisations in 15 countries across Africa and Asia.  By making these developing country materials easier to find on search engines and supporting re-use through Creative Commons licensing, IDS OpenDocs greatly increases the likelihood of their being used by a global audience.

Judith Shier, a librarian from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa, has been working with BLDS to digitise the university’s development studies material since 2011. She said: ‘OpenDocs has enabled a collection of locally published research going back more than fifty years, which was sitting on library or archive shelves, to become available and visible as a searchable resource, globally.’

The UKZN collection now contains over 400 documents and is a valuable resource for researchers across the world, as Professor Mark Hunter from the University of Toronto confirms: ‘I have discovered a number of insightful reports from the 1950s associated with the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Development Studies department, and these have enabled me to enrich my study of Durban’s educational history. As scholars seek to understand post-apartheid society, the availability online of decades of socio-economic studies reminds researchers of the rich—if racially inflected—history of the social sciences in South Africa.’

The Global Open Knowledge Hub (GOKH) aims to improve the supply and accessibility of content that supports evidence informed policy making and practice by development actors. As part of the GOKH programme IDS continues to seek partners in developing countries who would like to broaden access to their materials. In many cases we may be able to support the digitising of documents. If you are interested in having your research institute’s content hosted on IDS OpenDocs contact Rachel Playforth at BLDS. 

Image: 'Somalia, Mogadishu. Two students from Mogadishu University use a laptop as they study at home.' (Sven Torfinn / Panos)