A Matatu Tour of Kenya

by | Sep 9, 2013 | 0 comments

An Interview with Alan Harris – Licensing Manager, Library Sales, Africa & Developing Countries Initiatives and Jacco Flipsen – Editorial Director, Life Sciences


Matatu tour - 1ATG:  What is a matatu tour? Please tell us about it and why it came about. Is this the first one or have there been earlier ones?

AH: Good question – a “matatu” is essentially a minibus. Springer has been extremely active in Kenya over the past five years. In close cooperation with our local representative, Mr.James Igamba, we have introduced e-books into the Kenyan market and arranged access/ownership to a large collection of Springer e-books for 14 universities there. In addition to outreach and training we arranged this most recent journey – the first Springer Author Workshop in Kenya – in order to give more body to the electronic resources we are already supplying. We also wanted to offer some deeper insight into the scientific publishing process, something that many of our university partners have requested. Since there was a total of six Springer staff visiting, the “matatu” was the best means of transport for getting around the country together for this two-week road show.

JF: I would add that scientific output is growing in all emerging economies. This also means a lot of new authors looking to publish their first scientific paper. Springer is very interested to develop relations with universities in these countries, and organizing author workshops is part of the emerging markmatatu tour 2et strategy. Workshops are organized in various countries, including South Africa, Botswana and Namibia in the southern part of Africa, and Morocco and Tunisia in the north.

Topics include how to choose a journal, how to submit a manuscript and how to deal with peer review feedback. Also, we cover the differences between subscription-based journals and open access journals from an author point of view, and how this relates to the role of the library. Publishing ethics is also an important issue in academic publishing these days: copyright violation, duplicated publication and fraud are to be avoided. A lot of the new authors do not always know what is and what is not acceptable or the consequences associated with these activities.

ATG:  Why Kenya? Did you visit any other nearby countries? Was it just libraries/librarians that you visited/interviewed? How about publishers? How many libraries are there in Kenya? How about publishers? 

AH: This visit was limited to Kenya only, where there are approximately 70 public and private universities and research institutions.Kenya is the fastest emerging market on the African continent after South Africa, and education is a real ‘buzz’ word in this country. We only presented at university libraries, but several other universities and research institutions joined us at nearly each venue. Publishers aren’t really Springer’s clientele, with the exception of those publishers that purchase our publications (foreign rights) for translation into their own local languages.

JF: Research output in Kenya grows by 10 percent per year. With the help of the librarians of the universities we visited (15 universities in a two-week period) we invited advanced-level students and researchers to attend the workshop. While useful for librarians, the focus of the workshops was on authors, explaining what is involved in publishing academic results in scientific journals and books.

Matatu Tour 5

ATG:  What specific universities did you visit? Was this exclusively a visit to promote Springer products, or were there other items of interest?

AH: The universities we visited were, in order:

University of Nairobi
United States International University
Aga Khan University
KCA University
The Catholic University Of Eastern Africa
Daystar University (Nairobi Campus)
Technical University of Kenya
Kenyatta University
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
Maseno University
Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology
Moi University
Egerton University
Dedan Kimathi University of Technology
Kenya Methodist University – KeMU

Most universities extended the invitation to neighboring institutions, allowing their students and staff to attend the session as well.

Matatu Tour 4Springer did its utmost to present a non-biased workshop on how to publish scientifically. We also made it particularly clear to all participants that they were free to submit their journal articles or book manuscripts to whichever journal or publisher was the most appropriate to the subject matter of their work.

JF: The principles of getting research published in academic journals is fairly universal. Our presentation gives an unbiased overview of what is involved in academic publishing, with examples from within Springer as well as other academic publishers.

ATG:  What are the “hot topics” for libraries/librarians in Kenya?

AH: Low and sustainable pricing, training and good usage. As in every African country they would love to have introductory textbooks available with Springer but this is not our field of specialization

ATG:  Which countries in Africa show the most the most potential to contribute the type research Springer and other academic publishers are interested in publishing?

AH: Surprisingly enough, Springer has a long history of publishing scientific research from the African continent. The main areas of research publications coming from Africa are: Malaria, Conservation, Biodiversity, Epidemiology, Climate Change and HIV/AIDS. Leading ‘publishing’ countries in Africa are South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. In total Springer has publishedMatatu Tour 6 more than 100,000 journal articles and has had more than 36,000 book contributions from and about Africa, with an enormous spike over the past 10 years, and a 10-percent annual increase – more than enough reason for Springer to bring our road show to Kenya.

JF: In addition to the topics mentioned above, I would include include Humanities and Social Sciences. It is really a wide breadth of science.

ATG:  On the other side of the equation, where are the biggest potential markets for the published results of academic research in Africa? 

AH: Springer is a global publisher with global readership, but the highest potential readership for science coming out of Africa would be in the USA, South Africa, United Kingdom, Germany and France.

ATG:  What are the biggest barriers faced by publishers and researchers in developing the full potential of the market?

AH: The one biggest barrier is that universities and research institutions do not always have sufficient funding to ensure that they maintain access to the latest scientific research literature. This does not apply to just Springer content, but also that of all other major STM publishers. This means researchers are basing a lot of their research findings on older literature, something that plays a big role in the high volume of ‘rejections’ coming from the African continent. The one exception is Southern Africa, where this is much less of a problem.

Matatu Tour 3




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