From newsletter to blog - welcome to the new WIDERAngle

By now you have probably seen the exciting revamp of our website. These changes are not cosmetic. They represent a fundamental rebuilding of our web profile, including our very active presence on social media via Facebook and Twitter. To deliver to you this web content requires a great deal of engineering behind the scenes—and a hardworking team—not least in organizing and delivering the ever-expanding database of publications (over 5,000 now). And we now have an exceedingly active YouTube channel with videos from our conferences and a great interview series with network members. We’ve been using all these media to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the start of the Institute’s operations in Helsinki in 1985, before the internet became global.

our working paper series is freely downloadable, and all our recent publications in journals are open access

Thirty years ago, if you had said ‘social media’ it would have conjured up an image of people sitting together on sofas reading newspapers on paper, not tablets and phones. Quite nice—especially when accompanied by a cup of tea. My reading was largely confined to the printed mainstream media, and when I wanted a research article I headed for the library shelves. I still remember the heavy metal shelves (‘stacks’) that you had to move by turning a mechanical wheel to get at the journal archives at my old college in the early 1980s. I guess it built more arm muscle than does moving a mouse around today, but otherwise this means of accessing research findings had little to say for it—though the smell of dusty leather-bound journals does still bring forth a nostalgic smile. And if you were 100 miles away from a university library, let alone 1000 miles away (in Africa, say), you felt very cut off.

So we have come a long way. Still too much of the world’s research is hidden behind paywalls but, believe me, it’s a lot better than it was. And UNU-WIDER is doing its bit—our working paper series is freely downloadable, and all our recent publications in journals are open access—you’ll see those on our publications page with the symbol of an open padlock (most appropriate!). You could, if you want, spend your entire weekend reading and watching our latest output; though I would recommend you get out once and a while, and be truly ‘social’.

When I arrived at UNU-WIDER for the first time, we put together the WIDERAngle as a printed newsletter, with desktop publishing software. It was then printed on nice black and white paper (the later colour print was an exciting innovation like the move from black and white TV to colour). WIDERAngle was then put in a plastic bag, and posted. I still remember helping stick labels on the bags (thousands!) when the machine malfunctioned. It was very nicely produced, and the content was good—we did a special issue of WIDERAngle on the theme of ‘IT and development’, as we were one of the first research groups to work on the issue. But today it seems very odd to disseminate research on such a topic via paper and post. Still, we did have a very good website for its time (the late 1990s, early 2000s), having given special attention to making it readable for slow desktop PCs (no tablets or smartphones then).

WIDERAngle over the last decade at least has been coming to you via email. It will still do so—it goes out to over 10,000 addresses—but we have now changed the format, so the newsletter has now become our new WIDERAngle blog. If you want early notice of our publications and Calls for Papers and events, I really urge you to follow UNU-WIDER on social media. We want our network to expand, especially across the developing world. Many of the people who come to our conferences and events now first hear of us via social media channels. We see many old friends again this way, but also meet new ones. So if you want to meet in person some fellow human beings interested in all aspects of development research, and not just stare at your screens, then sign up via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or LinkedIn.

Tony Addison is Chief Economist-Deputy Director, UNU-WIDER. You can follow him on @TonysAngle.