The IDS Bulletin - Fifty Years Old and Still Going Strong

9 March 2018

This year sees the IDS Bulletin celebrating 50 years in publication, the last two of these as gold open access. At this time it seems appropriate to reflect on how going open access has changed the journal so far, and what future directions might be.

New IDS Bulletin covers

The same but different Everything is changing 

An increasingly competitive funding environment, the academic publishing world accepting open access and moving on to open data, established journals offering various modes of publication, newer journals cropping up to take advantage of either specialist subject areas or new business models around openness. Then again, some things stay the same – the need for researchers to publish their findings, the need for publishers to accommodate this in a digital environment, the will to make a difference to the world through demonstrable impact from published work.

Stepping into this shifting, transitional environment is the IDS Bulletin. Since January 2016 and the first open access issue on ‘Opening Governance’, it has continued to publish topical and academically rigorous articles regularly, each one available to read, download and re-use at no charge, gradually moving away from the previous subscription model in its ambition to ensure straightforward availability for all.

What’s changed?

Moving away from successful co-publication with Wiley to an entirely in-house produced model could have been daunting. It wasn’t. The IDS Bulletin has always been a unique journal throughout its 50 years of existence, with researchers and professional editorial teams working together to commission, peer review and publish issues covering themes relevant to academia and policymakers globally. During this time it has gone full circle from management in-house to publisher to in-house again, each time facing, and overcoming, ongoing challenges around these changes with determination, and keeping up with wider trends in evolving technology and funder requirements. Turning the business model upside-down from subscription to gold open access while simultaneously taking production back in-house may have seemed a tall order, yet the process moved onwards with barely a backwards glance.

What have we learnt?

The key to this transition was building up from a solid base. 

  • Diverse range of expertise from the commissioning researchers in many aspects of development subjects? Check. 
  • Experienced editorial and marketing staff? Check. 
  • Agreement of the IDS decision-makers to adopt an issue-based funding model that avoids Article Processing Charges? Check. 

From here the chief learning curve for everyone has been around the intricacies of open licensing. We have emphasised the benefits of open publishing to authors – for IDS this is chiefly around free availability of content to our readers in the South and continuing to advocate for a high percentage of Southern contributors – while also ensuring that authors understand the nuances of applying Creative Commons licensing and the advantages and disadvantages as their work becomes re-usable.

We found that creating a searchable website to host and promote new and archive content, available as whole issues or individual articles, keeps the IDS Bulletin in focus for readers.

We also learned that there were some practical details around funding whole issues (rather than individual articles), which needed to be clarified, and these were dealt with partly through emphasising the value of an issue and partly through adapting aspects of the production system.

Once licensing and funding matters are agreed all round, everyone involved with an issue can concentrate on their particular expertise (writing, peer review, editing) without any bureaucratic processes getting in the way – no impersonal online interactions, no APCs, and no embargoes.

Where are we going?

In 2018 the IDS Bulletin is proud to promote its fiftieth anniversary and highlight the wealth of archive material contained on the journal’s website. More than this, the Advisory Board, production team and contributors are planning ahead on potential new issues focused on current world events (such as women’s empowerment and the Me Too campaign), and aiming to draw in more new contributors worldwide (such as co-producing an issue with JICA in Japan). We also welcome feedback about the IDS Bulletin and how we’ve adapted to open access requirements, so that we can continue to evolve best practice. 

With quiet confidence (yet swerving hubris), the whole IDS Bulletin team can draw on its past extensive experience to negotiate the future changes – known and as yet unknown – in the academic publishing environment. We are two years in to gold open access, and we plan for many more years ahead, promoting the work of IDS and partner researchers worldwide, and facilitating change for the better as much as we can through the medium of publishing.

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