Academic publishing in Tanzania: if it seems complicated, that’s because it is

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Publishing-pros-in-TanzaniaWhen I volunteered to spend November in Tanzania working with the Elsevier Foundation’s Publishers Without Borders program, it felt like a big deal to me. It wasn’t just that I had to make sacrifices of my own, but I had to ask my family and Elsevier colleagues to make sacrifices as well. My family had to do without me for all of November (including Thanksgiving), and the people I work with had to adjust their schedules and take on extra work to accommodate my trip. Everyone was very enthusiastic in their support of this project, and I wanted to make sure what we accomplished in Tanzania was worth it.

And yet as big a deal as this felt to me, the books publishing training that Mary Ann Zimmerman and I were sent to do is only a small part of a much bigger two-year project started by multiple international and Tanzanian organizations with the goal of strengthening indigenous academic and digital publishing In Tanzania.

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The Elsevier Foundation is contributing to this project by providing the training expertise in the form of eight Elsevier volunteers, four in October and November 2014 and four in February, March, and May 2015.

Understanding where my contribution fits in is both humbling and encouraging. It’s humbling because, even though these four weeks feel like a notable undertaking to me, other people are putting far more of themselves into this endeavor. For example, Maaike Duine, who is running this project for VSO, quit her job at Springer to live in Tanzania for two years. And it is encouraging, because I know that there are going to be multiple training sessions provided, and that through the training and development of the consortium, we are helping to support the indigenous work of the Tanzanian publishing community. Progress will continue long after I am back in New England.

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