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Eldis review of the year 2015

Eldis senior editor Alan Stanley reflects on our year and looks ahead to a big anniversary in 2016.

In 2016 Eldis will be celebrating our 20th year as an online information service. Back in 1996 the internet itself was still relatively new - Google wouldn't emerge for another couple of years, concepts like social media simply didn't exist and technologies like smart phones were still more than a decade away. So for Eldis to still be here is a pretty remarkable achievement when you think about how much the way in which people access and use information has changed over that period.

Eldis 1996A fun way to illustrate this point is to preview our fully functioning Eldis front page as it would have looked back then in 1996 – something we put together (it took our developer about 20 minutes!) to feature in our anniversary celebrations. Just click on the screenshot to give it a try...

When I saw it the first thing that struck me was the size. Something designed as full screen monitor size in 1996 would now fit comfortably on a mobile phone screen! 

The second thing that struck me was that the basic user functions of Eldis in 1996 are pretty similar to it's basic functions now. Given all that has changed over the 20 years of our history, this has to prompt the question - is Eldis still relevant and useful today?

Now, perhaps unsurprisingly given that I'm the editor, I'm going to say yes. And if we take a look at what's happened in 2015 I think I can provide some justification for this point of view.

As a starting point lets take a look at our top features and the most downloaded documents that have been added to Eldis in 2015.

Most downloaded documents added to Eldis in 2015

  Document Publisher
1 The challenge of stability and security in West Africa World Bank / AFD
2 Gender and Food Security In Brief BRIDGE
3 Zero draft: Transforming our world by 2030: A new agenda for global action UN
4 HUNGaMA: Fighting hunger and malnutrition: The HUNGaMA Survey Report – 2011 Citizens’ Alliance against Malnutrition
5 Gender and Food Security | BRIDGE Cutting Edge Pack BRIDGE
6 Assessing climate change vulnerability and its effects on food security: Testing a new toolkit in Tanzania Climate Change Agriculture Food Security
7 AEC 2015: Issues and Challenges in Standards and Conformance Philippine Institute for Development Studies
8 Monitoring and Evaluation of Climate Change Adaptation: Methodological approaches OECD
9 Effects of the Syrian refugees on Turkey Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation
10 Large cardamom farming in changing climatic and socioeconomic conditions in the Sikkim Himalayas International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, (ICIMOD)


The big development issues of the year are clearly represented in this coverage - we covered the SDG process from several angles including the emerging debate around the Data Revolution for development; climate change and COP21 feature prominently as you would expect; and analysis of the deepening migration crisis and interventions in various conflicts were also highly sought after. 

But what also shows up is how we have been able to provide credible research-led perspectives on these issues from a really diverse set of global development actors. Supporting the visibility and accessibility of research from smaller, most often developing-country based, research organisations has become the core mission of Eldis in recent years so it is very pleasing for me to see this translate into a clear growing demand for their research among our global audience. 

(Incidentally this focus has resulted in some quite surprising shifts in user behaviour on the Eldis site too but I'll save that analysis for next year when we present the findings from our current user survey. If you haven't completed it yet please do so now - it only takes a few minutes!).

Another big shift in our approach in recent years has been to focus more on making this research content available for others to repackage and reuse in their own services. This is in part responding to trends in technology adoption such as the massive interest in the potential of Open Data and the semantic web. But it is also a response to our increasing understanding of the role we can most effectively play in how our target audiences access and use research knowledge - and reflects out long standing support for Open Access publishing and the idea that research knowledge is a global public good. 

In this area it has been great to be able to share our experience this last year with our fellow partners in the Open Knowledge Hub  (OKHub.org) project. And this reflects the final area where I think Eldis has evolved to stay relevant and useful - our commitment to working in partnership with other knowledge brokers and intermediaires and supporting the sector.

So thanks to all of you for being part of the Eldis family in 2015. We'll need your help and support in 2016 if we are to continue to stay relevant and useful for you all in the future.