|Bridge Builders: African Experiences with Information & Communication (BOSTID, 1996, 304 p.)|
|Case studies on desktop publishing|
by Agnes Katama
Agnes Katama is Manager of ICIPE Science Press and project leader of the Environmental Publishing Network (ENVIRONET) a network linking seven institutions in the Eastern Africa Region. She is also a volunteer lecturer for women undergraduate students at the University of Nairobi, where she coordinates programs for gender-equity. Her main focus of research in book production is on market orientation within the scholarly publishing world and on the search for alternative human resource formulae to enhance cost efficiency. She is a journalist by profession. She has been appointed Coordinator of the African Forum for Children's literacy in Science and Technology, an activity of the Rockefeller Foundation.
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT Of; THE PROJECT
The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) was established in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, in 1970. It was given the twin mandate to:
a) undertake basic research in integrated control methodologies
for arthropod pest management and
b) to strengthen, through training and collaboration, the scientific and technological capacities of developing countries.
In 1988, ICIPE created the ICIPE Science Press (ISP), as its own, internal publishing house. I joined ISP in 1991 as the Marketing and Information Executive; I am now the Manager of ISP. In March 1992, ICIPE undertook a thorough study of the literature and realized that there was little or no coordination of the development of self-sustaining and significant scholarly publishing ventures in Africa. There was limited up-to-date information on establishing well-managed subscription services or on the mailing and marketing of environment-related publications.
Also in 1992, I carried out a study for the Association of African Universities in which I investigated the merits and the demerits of the management and organization regarding the marketing of scholarly publishing activities in Western and Central Africa. I recommended the creation of a specialized sub-regional publishing network in order to meet local needs in a coherent fashion.
Since both studies identified such pressing needs for the publication and marketing of scholarly works, the ISP decided to pool its resources with those of other institutions to create the Environmental Publishing Network (ENVIRONET).
The purpose of ENVIRONET, which was founded in 1993, is to develop means for the more efficient dissemination of research findings. For instance, many scholarly works can be redesigned into effective university course work material. ICIPE's own authorship had traditionally covered environment-related issues and the enriching combination of publishable material from the ENVIRONET participating institutions made it possible for us to launch other publications in areas such as desertification, food security, and crop sciences. ENVIRONET also facilitated the publishing of print-worthy material from peer research institutions, the sharing of information resources, and the quest for formulae to effectively commercialize the printed results according to market rules.
A key contributor to the design and implementation of the first phase of the project was the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada. IDRC has played a significant role in the development and strengthening of scholarly publishing throughout the African region. Recently, in partnership with the Association of African Universities, the Council for the Development of Economic and Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA), and several research institutions in the region, it created opportunities for inter-institutional cooperation, the sharing of resources, and dissemination of vital information. It also provided funding to establish ENVIRONET.
I am the ENVIRONET Project Leader. ENVIRONET is housed at the ICIPE Science Press offices in Nairobi. Since ISP had already proven to be a self-financing publishing operation, ENVIRONET benefited from staff expertise in this area and its location at ISP fostered cooperation between ENVIRONET and ICIPE Science Press. There is a very symbiotic relationship between ENVIRONET and ISP.
The first phase of the project was initiated in June 1994 as an
18-month experiment. Its main objectives are to create a credible,
market-oriented, and self-sustaining network for the provision of information on
environmental publishing activities and to train adequate human resources in the
areas of book production, management, and marketing. Specifically, the first
phase of the project was established in order to:
· Create a network of publishers and research institutions specialized in environmental matters with an adequate institutional framework;· Conduct a marketing study with the aim of garnering support for innovative methods of self-sustaining scholarly publishing;· Develop a database comprising an author and subject roster on environmental materials published in the region. This will include the development of linkages with other organizations pursuing similar goals; and· Foster the capacity-building potential of participating institutions, especially in the area of training and publications marketing.
Phase I has concentrated on establishing lasting self-sustaining methods of managing the funds available for this activity. A key concern of the project is to identify collaborating institutions and activities whose needs are similar enough to seek common methods to ensure efficient production, distribution, and marketing capabilities. Phase II, to be launched in June 1996, will focus on the establishment of a well-managed and efficient Publishing and Information Center.
The establishment of a training program was a key accomplishment of Phase I and this program is described in more detail later in this case study. The training of ENVIRONET members benefited directly from the publishing systems and services used by ICIPE Science Press. For example, ISP uses an Apple Macintosh system for its desktop publishing (DTP). The software we use includes Aldus PageMaker, Microsoft Word, Adobe Illustrator, and Excel. These are the same packages we use to train ENVIRONET members and the ones trainees will use on their own work stations, which the Network provides.
ENVIRONET seeks to revitalize the authorship capability among a selected number of research institutions in Eastern and Southern Africa, while stimulating a healthy diversity of environment related publications. The participating institutions are:
International Development Research Centre, Nairobi
The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Nairobi
African Crop Science Society, Kampala
Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern Africa, Addis Ababa
International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, Nairobi
The Environmental Liaison Centre International, Nairobi
The Institute for Tropical Forestry Conservation, Mbarara University, Uganda
Our main source of publishable material is the research results obtained from all collaborating, international, and regional organizations with related aims. ISP was selected to host this experiment because of its current ability to self-finance all its activities. Having achieved financial autonomy, the next logical step forward is to present an up-market strategy to wean the publishing program off the donor support needed at its inception. This will truly be the main achievement of the project. (See Box 1.)
The self-sustainability of ISP has taken four years to design and implement. Naturally, there were the real advantages in having beautiful premises on the science campus of the University of Nairobi. Furthermore, the first Director of ICIPE, Professor Thomas Odhiambo, allowed flexibility of cost recovery mechanisms with the concerted support of the financial system of the whole institution. He encouraged me to formulate and consolidate the measures needed to allow ISP to recover costs and, ultimately, to break even.
The sale of our expertise has been the key element of our sustainability. ISP has a policy of 10 percent returns on all consultancies - whether in cash or in time - and staff are encouraged to open out to the other institutions in the area. Indeed' our first contacts with the other members of the Network have been as a result of our help in starting up the publications unit. In the case of the African Crop Science Society, ISP published the first issues and coordinated a colorful launch of their journal in Kampala. These are assignments that are carefully budgeted and afford ISP substantial benefit.
Another area of expertise has been the publishing of conference proceedings on behalf of institutions in the region. A powerful marketing edge has been the ability of ISP to see these important assignments to completion within the year. Recently, ISP has been commissioned to edit (myself), design (ISP team), and layout papers for a major meeting on Equity and Social Considerations Related to Climate Change. With assignments such as these, ISP has been able to move into high quality publishing for a consolidated group of institutional clients. Needless to say, the possibility of having attachment students (described below) greatly cuts down on the cost of initial start-up of the different assignments since these need considerable negotiation, supply of information, and other staff-intensive inputs.
The marketability of the published material, as well as the services made available at the start of the Project - training, workshop coordination, high technology computer graphics, and so on - are being used to generate independent funding that can then be plowed back into publishing or related activities. Interestingly, during this 18-month launch period, we have made the best use of our new desktop publishing facilities by fulfilling donor-funded assignments from collaborating institutions or by completing direct consultancies from the donors themselves.
BOX 1 Finding a Business Balance
We still need to strike a fair balance between the purely business-driven considerations on the one hand and, on the other, our academic commitment to attaining the goals for which the Project was initially designed. We still need to make environmental information readily and easily available and affordable to our tertiary educative and research constituencies.
PROJECT EXPERIENCE AND IMPLEMENTATION
The project and its implementation schedule were beset with multiple problems. The worst of these was the restructuring of ICIPE, the host institution, which lasted a full six months. During this time I had neither the necessary resources nor the time to dedicate to the project.
To analyze the positive and the negative points of our project implementation after the first ten months, we made use of a management tool, called SWOT. SWOT helps identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats facing a project. We placed particular emphasis on the DTP training component since, to date, it is the only one that has been completed as proposed at the outset.
We used the information received from the SWOT analysis to evaluate project's impact on the users, the host organization, and the collaborating institutions. It also brought to light the aspects of the project that were not well done or that could have been done better. It therefore gives us a basis for the further development of the project. The results of the SWOT analysis are given below.
· ENVIRONET Phase I has established a training ground for future trainees. Four professionals have been trained and this training has served as valuable blue-print material to involve the trainable officers in important information generating institutions.· Local and international collaboration with scientific and environmental organizations has provided a reference base from which ENVIRONET has spread its initiative since it is getting recognition among interested and upcoming projects.· All staff and trainers have been encouraged and challenged through the project to engage in administrative tasks. Computer knowledge and exposure acquired by the trainees from different organizations serve as gateways to promoting skills present at the project. This in itself has boosted the credibility and name of ISP at both a local and an international level.
· Training - This four-month course included elements of theory classes and practical computer training. We altered the course after the trainees had arrived and fell short in properly formalizing the time tables outlining the activities.· Trips and Visits - We should have foreseen the need to plan trips, social activities, and talks by various guests.· Evaluation - We should have conducted an ongoing activity evaluation to keep track of the quality of the entire training component. For instance, we could have sent questionnaires to trainees, the Board of Directors and trainers before, after, and during the training.· Finance / ICIPE Headquarters - We faced heavy bureaucratic constraints.· Interaction - The Project Leader, trainees, and consultants faced limited and difficult interaction and interpersonal communication due to external and internal pressures surrounding the restructuring exercise.· Trainees' had limited participation in and attendance at the training because their publishing projects had not been discussed and distributed in advance.· We should have documented complaints and disappointments to improve inter-party communication for subsequent courses.
· We could train trainers and colleagues from collaborating
institutions in the use of the DTP equipment. We can train ICIPE and other
research staff at the project premises through the help of a full time computer
instructor. Our existing expertise in scientific writing and editing can also be
shared with network members and others.· Due to the gradual credibility
status achieved by the project, an increasing number of institutions wish to
belong to and support the project.· Increasing the number of trainees
attending each subsequent DTP course will increase the desired cost-efficiency
level for each institution and will help the project participants generate their
own revenue.· The greatest hindrance to the sale of scholarly titles is the
relative lack of information, reviews, and follow-up on behalf of individual and
institutional authors. We could formulate further courses on marketing, pricing,
and dissemination strategies.· Email is promoting the status of ENVIRONET
and in itself provides a base for marketing various publications. Access to the
Internet is desirable and could help improve the flow of news about African
scholarly activity. Of particular interest are possible author/subject indices,
book reviews, and author profiles. Such guides will include the accomplishments
of experts in the areas of environment and natural science and would help
libraries and others keep current bibliographies of published and unpublished
literature written by Africans.
· Email has much potential as a method for curbing the costs associated with editing, peer review, and author changes. Electronic publishing of journals, proceedings of meetings, and bulletins is another possibility that we must explore. The results we achieve in ENVIRONET can be replicated by ISP to benefit other non-scientific institutions in the ISP Tertio program.'
· ISP has initiated and finalized the work plans for Enviroburos which, though not a part of ENVIRONET, will be supervised by ISP as commercially running document production centers at the service of the environmental and conservation communities. To ensure financial viability, we have increased our in-take capacity by the creation of these bureaus. We are now carefully documenting the results of the pilot study and will use this to rationalize the replication of these all over the continent.
· The heavy dependence and linkage to the ICIPE headquarters slackens work progress. Red tape and personal office set-ups are an obstacle to flexible market-oriented responses necessary for the project's smooth running in the financial and administrative spheres.· Unless we undertake an organized evaluation, the Project may receive a negative image leading to a reduction in regional supporters and international collaborators.
THE RESULTS, IMPACT, AND BENEFITS OF THE PROJECT
The main activities at ICIPE Science Press include discovering new marketing angles for scholarly publishing, training publishing staff, and creating a network of collaborators to the benefit of effective scholarly material being produced. The ENVIRONET project is just over one-year old and I will discuss some of the results in this section.
The experimental marketing of the books to be produced within the network has not yet taken place because the member institutions do not yet have suitable titles ready. The publishing of manuscripts supplied by ISP is now under way, however. Some of the titles that have been discovered and whose authors are now being guided include manuscripts ranging from conservation and biodiversity to the keeping of commercial insects.
For the marketing of products and services, ENVIRONET has made use of bookfairs and forums that bring together publishers as well as persons or institutions involved in the development and distribution of environment related literature. Several institutions have made inquiries on the possibility of collaborating in this venture. I have been asked to speak at numerous symposia and conferences.
Benefits of the Project
The benefits of the project include:
a) enhanced project management as a service to ICIPE as well as
to several institutions with similar aims and objectives;
b) infrastructure enhancement for the publishing division of the ISP;
c) human resource development for both trainees and women university students on attachment;
d) training manuals for successive courses to be hosted for the DTP of scientific manuscripts;
e) published material; and
f) email catalogs of grey literature to be accessed online.
The University Students Attachment Programme (USAP)
The USAP is in many ways an integral part of ENVIRONET because it has helped contribute to its success. This program was first established as a means of helping the ISP program break even. Since its inception, we have made the study and consolidation of USAP and other innovative, up-marketing strategies a priority aspect in management, time, and resources allocation. I will, thus, take some time to describe the details of this attachment program. We plan to help publishing houses in the region create similar programs to cut down on the prohibitive overhead costs of running a publishing house.
The USAP is one of my ideas to make administrative work more cost-effective. Some of ISP's services are only possible because of this attachment program of university Yes, but why women? Women count for only one of every six of the university population. Job seeking for women can be agonizing, given the strict requirement of prior working experience. It was to respond to this need in the student community that USAP was born. (See Box 2.)
We select university students from diverse faculties who can contribute to the general working of the press. They are then attached to the various ISP departments after intensive on-the-job training by the proceeding group of USAPers. The students are involved in marketing, soliciting, distribution, production liaison, mailing, and subscription activities. We have prepared comprehensive procedural manuals to help smooth the flow of work. Students work free of any supervision, although I am available for guidance. Weekly meetings allow feedback on tasks assigned to each person.
Professional development classes are offered to all USAPers. USAP organizes its own activities to help other students participate in professional enrichment activities. So far, the major outlet has been to annual rural promotion projects. They have proved to be very resourceful and often prepare the educational material on their own.
There have been many benefits of the USAP. Women in Management (WIM) and Women in Science (WIS) are two new projects geared toward the professional promotion of undergraduates. Both projects fall under the USAP umbrella. These grew out of the great diversity of training and orientation needs of the various USAPers. We saw a clear need to help students develop in their own fields of specialization. There exists an eagerness to attend extra-curricular professional sessions since these always offer increased job prospects.
Women in Management was formed for students who hope to specialize in commerce and business administration. Women in Science is for students looking for careers in the sciences. In addition to university students, these projects also target students in middle level colleges and young professionals.
The USAP Alumni
Every three months, there is a new USAP group at ISP. A total of over 60 women have benefited directly from the hands-on training program, while up to 250 have benefited from off-shoot activities. Bulletins and regular get-togethers of the USAP Alumni are two major methods of exchanging ideas and giving new information and feedback on tasks accomplished. Also since many women obtain good jobs on completion of their undergraduate studies, there is the rewarding opportunity of listening to their expectations and desire to excel.
Future Prospects: The USAP Resource Centre (URC)
The establishment of a URC will be a major step forward. We are approaching donors to help equip a resource centre that will link women from countries in the region. Given that these students are already trained and are resourceful, such a center could help in the provision of support for this activity as its popularity spreads among collaborating institutions. These activities include the preparation of educational material for rural promotion projects, coordination of USAP professional classes, and planning the activities of WIM and WIS. We are fast forming links with other university students in the world in order to facilitate better communication. A first stop will be Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda where a WIM program has already been simulated.
BOX 2 Training Program for Women
USAP is a women Empowerment Project that helped form in 1993 to serve the dual purpose of training on the job while reducing the number of permanent administrative staff of ISP. This program takes, for a duration rarely exceeding six months, university students who are on vacation.
ANALYSIS OF LESSONS LEARNED
I know that ICIPE itself has contributed to the success of ISP and the ENVIRONET project. Unlike many international research institutions, ICIPE has encouraged and permitted creative system design that stretches beyond ISP's traditional mandate. Experimenting with different cost-recovery mechanisms and being innovative in the use of staff has allowed ISP to attain self-sufficiency. Beyond this broad lesson, we have learned a number of specific things.
For example, following their program, the trainees reported to the Board members. The issues they raised in their joint report were also discussed at ICIPE's own ENVIRONET training post-mortem meeting with ICIPE's senior-most staff. The resolutions taken by ICIPE as a result are discussed below.
The administration of the training clearly demonstrated shortcomings. Most of these emanated from a lack of foresight as to the viability of such an activity, when both ISP and headquarters staff were working in a low efficiency mode. As we discovered' training should never have started during the restructuring of the host institution. In the future, any training carried out will be entrusted to the training division of ICIPE, while all technical aspects will be the responsibility of ISP. ICIPE's training division will then take charge of the preliminary notification and will establish the training needs of all participants and the correct modus operandi during the program. This will lead to a closer working relationship between myself, the Head of Training at ICIPE, and the ENVIRONET Board members.
Finances, Trainee Per Diem, and Travel
The trainees should know, prior to the start of training, the details of their travel arrangements, allowances, and the full nature of their program, including time off, recreation, other travel opportunities, and so on. We are in the process of circulating such rules and regulations to the Board for its approval.
The restructuring of ICIPE has moved ICIPE Science Press and all of its various projects from the management to the research arm of the institution. This will ensure that the project's own research content, objectives, and goals are being evaluated as a research assignment and that they continue to fit within the broader picture of ICIPE's research mandate and interests.
ENVIRONET - Training Objectives
The training program was overly ambitious and there existed a clear mismatch between targeted achievement and real attainment. Smooth communication was either difficult or less effective than desired. The resulting working atmosphere was sometimes tense both between the institution and the project, as well as among the project management and trainees.
A number of institutions and professionals in the relevant fields have shown interest in participating in the project and in learning more about plans for expanded collaboration and professional capacity building. Furthermore, the professionals trained in the project will need additional monitoring, support, and networking. A simple one sheet newsletter is being sent out to all interested parties and collaborating institutions of the project. Emphasis on clarity of reporting is paramount to establishing links as the project faces the challenges of fund-raising for its successive phases.
Electronic publishing is now the focus of my efforts as well as those of the collaborating institutions. The links have now been set up. ENVIRONET will have a dedicated telephone line and switchboard independent from the ISP main lines. Email facilities are now available for trainees" needs. We have designed a home page on the Internet via The University of Edinburgh and we have installed systems for online publishing and documentation transfer. Start-up funding is a real problem since the initial hooking up is the most costly in terms of design and equipment.
The project has been evaluated by an expert selected by IDRC with specific terms of reference, as is critical within the framework of sustainability of the proposed activities.
An important component of the research in ENVIRONET is the compilation of a marketing tool. This will consist of a database of two types:
a. Books in press and in print. In conjunction with the Library of Congress, the African Publishers Network (APNET), and others, this project will study ways to harmonize information on authors and titles to meet a North-South online demand. This research is vital and could be a great service to the region since most existing databases are not online. I have started discussions with interested parties so as to harmonize input from the beginning. I estimate that we will start this project in about three months.
b. Grey literature. ENVIRONET's mandate is to publicize existing grey literature by the continent's specialized authors. Availability of information about market, slant' and constituency are the mainstay of the project and we are seeking funds for serious research of this sort.
ENVIRONET is to publish or cover the cost (including the marketing) of five publications. Although originally to be prepared by the trainees while in the training program, only two of the institutions had ready material. Also it was not possible to complete these given the lack of time. Authors for the five manuscripts are now being guided. The possibility of their marketing via the online system is a critical aspect of the research component.
ENVIRONET Phase II
ENVIRONET will have to compete for scarce funding for its successive stages and group financing of activities will be the foreseeable scenario. Despite the difficult launch period during the restructuring of the host institution, there is considerable interest within the region in the activities and the objectives of the project. A number of institutions have asked to be affiliated with it particularly given the specificity of its training. This clearly presents financial challenges. Through considerable donor contact, I am now coordinating fund-raising for the second phase.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMANDATIONS
ENVIRONET Phase I now comes to a close to pave the way for ENVIRONET Phase II. In Phase II we hope to seek funding for the expansion of the Information and Publishing Center. Through the center, ISP will be able to source work from various organizations in the region and publish it for them. We will continue to publish material included within the broad paradigm of environmental studies analysis.
The mainstay of the project will continue to be the satisfaction of information related demands in the region. Via the ENVIRONET Information Center, ISP will continue to assist in the marketing of scholarly publications and to study the factors that continue to determine real publication development for the university and other tertiary readers.
Querying the information center will be possible via the email facilities of the user nodes, even though providing connectivity and access is probably the single most expensive activity that the project has identified. Quick access to existing information on particular areas of interest could be a marketable service to offer the Northern scholar at a differential costing and pricing. The profit will then fall as a subsidy for the Southern researcher.
Training will be another important aspect of the second phase. A critical mass of information providers will be built upon the already existing loose network of the ENVIRONET family of institutions. By the end of 1997, 20 prime research and development organizations will benefit from this training and will thus become information disseminators in their own right.
The ENVIRONET hub will try to speed up the publication process. What is now apparent is that the scholarly world will not publish in Africa unless there evolves a real commitment to sharing the cost of the manuscript processing. We are proposing that authors be able to submit manuscripts via the network to ISP where general editors help assemble the document. Thus the usually frustrating review process could be facilitated by putting the reviewers online with ISP. Authors will only need to go to a network point to approve manuscripts. Likewise the service of forwarding manuscripts to foreign journals could be handled for a gradually growing constituency.
The USAP project, now officially featured in ICIPE's Annual Reports, has no doubt presented exciting findings in the world of information packaging in the region. We will properly quantify their role and the service they can market to collaborating institutions. The importance of reducing overhead is critical to the survival of a scholarly publishing press. To add to the exposure these students will derive from their association with ISP, first as undergraduates and later as colleagues in collaborating institutions, we now propose to set up exchange programs where these women will gain personally from interaction with work places and information packaging concerns in the more developed parts of the world. These attachments will be coordinated by ENVIRONET to ensure that undergraduates acquire relevant work experience to the region's needs. This project is worthy of enhancing and its experience used as a pilot for gender equity concerns, particularly regarding the concern of a greater female representation in science and technology.
ISP has often seen the need to expand its collection points within the region. Thus we came up with the idea of the Enviroburos. The concept, which had to be nurtured and promoted among the non-commercial environment that typifies the scholarly publishing world, is now evolving. These will be market-oriented information packaging units in strategic cities in the region. Their marketing and procedures will derive from ISP's own rich experience in beating the cost-efficiency crunch. They will be put under the care of the members of the ENVIRONET Board. They will serve moreover as further arms for the publishing of worthy grey literature.
Today, we can consider the creation of an audiovisual laboratory because the costs are falling so rapidly. Publishing in Africa must keep abreast of technological advances elsewhere. We propose to create a pool of resources available for the use of the collaborating institutions to enable the documentation of research findings and events by video. A facility of this nature could easily reside in ISP given its ample premises within the university campus. Also the running of such a project is justifiable and easier to fund when the positive impact will be felt by so many users.
ENVIRONET proposes to provide to a wide public the results of the indexing of grey literature. The publishing of all material on CD-ROM is now an eventuality that ISP would like to spearhead. Of particular interest is the archiving of information on discs. This, though clearly important, will require careful planning by a number of interested donors and partners, since the task calls for substantial funding.
The launch of the project has had its own teething problems and the challenge ahead entails parallel commitment from all. As regional initiatives progress, the task is now at hand to safely conduct ENVIRONET past its infancy into the dynamics of growth.
1 . Tertio is a series that ISP launched in 1993 for non-scientific and technical readers - it includes mostly social science monographs. One Tertio publication, entitled Africa Development Last Frontier by Sadig Rasheed, will have a considerable impact for the inter-disciplinary scholarly publishing system continent-wide. One main title is being published under the Tertio program every year.
As Project Leader, I would particularly wish to thank the four trainees in the pioneer course, who mastered publication development skills offered by ENVIRONET. Their final report will go a long way to help chart out a more efficient plan for the successive training/orientation sessions the project may host in the future. Special commendation from the senior management of ICIPE goes to the IDRC Programme Officer, Dr. Habib Sy. Through his active and knowing guidance the project has now become an experiment the positive results of which are awaited by a significant number of future collaborators and information facilitators the world over.