Rich history of thought and debate on development – all open access

Published on 19 May 2016

As part of IDS’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, we re-launched our flagship publication, the IDS Bulletin as an open access journal. Not only are all issues published from 2016 now freely accessible online, but we have also digitised the entire back catalogue, going back almost half a century, which is now shared without restriction on the new IDS Bulletin website.

The first IDS Bulletin, which was published in 1968 and edited by then Director, Dudley Seers, heralded a move From Colonial Economics to Development Studies and set the tone for what was to come: a publication series that was always challenging orthodoxies and on the cutting-edge of development thinking.

In the early days

It wasn’t just the content that promised to be thought-provoking. From its earliest days, the IDS Bulletin sought contributions from beyond the narrow spectrum of Western/Northern academia. Early contributors include Anthony Hurrell, Assistant Secretary in the Overseas Development Administration of The Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Cres Barker, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (Guyana), Susantha Goonatilake, now president of Sri Lanka’s Royal Asiatic Society (and formerly general president of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science) and Radomiro Tomic, former Chilean politician who was one of the most prominent leaders of its Christian Democratic Party.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that both editors and contributors in the early days were largely composed of men, with the odd exception such as the prolific Rita Cruise O’Brien. Today, the composition of editors and contributors is far more balanced in terms of gender, geographical provenance and disciplinary perspective.

A much loved (and highly read) academic journal

Initially, the IDS Bulletin was very much a ‘bulletin’ containing updates about IDS research. But it soon evolved into a widely-read and much appreciated academic journal.

In a recent survey, IDS Bulletin readers were asked what made the IDS Bulletin different to other journals. These are some of their responses:

‘The scope of contributors’

‘Excellent combination of theory and practice’

‘It offers quality and a multi-disciplinary perspective’

‘Challenges prevailing narratives, presents fresh areas of research and is accessibly written’

‘Taking up and investigating also uncomfortable issues; no-nonsense approach; innovative’

85 per cent of survey respondents found the IDS Bulletin useful for their work and studies, which re-affirms our aspirations around ‘engaged excellence’ – linking high quality academic work with those at the heart of the change we wish to see.

When it was still a subscription-based journal, its readership, whilst largely academic (58 per cent), also included development consultants, policymakers and NGO workers. Now that there is no longer a paywall, we anticipate a growth amongst non-academic readers.

Since January 2016, the IDS Bulletin download statistics have surpassed all our expectations. Even taking into account the need to attribute a certain portion of these statistics to ‘crawlers, bots and spiders’, it is looking like we’ve achieved more downloads in the first four months of the new IDS Bulletin website going live in 2016 than we did throughout the whole of 2015.

A final word from IDS Director and Editor-in-Chief

In a recently published blog, IDS Director, and IDS Bulletin Editor-in-Chief likened the IDS Bulletin archive to ‘opening a treasure chest – surprises and gems await’.

‘Of course it provides only one set of development and development studies histories among many possible – but it is a hugely rich and varied one.’

We hope you enjoy perusing our archive, whether you are unearthing historical treasures, or interested in our latest cutting-edge research.

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Key contacts

Emilie Wilson

Head of Communications and Impact, ICTD

+44 (0)1273 915779