One of the sub-projects that is being carried out as part of The Academic Book of the Future is a piece of research into the academic book in the geographical south, in particular in Africa and India. The researchers on this project are Dr Caroline Davis of Oxford Brookes University and Professor Marilyn Deegan of King’s College London. In this week’s post, Prof. Deegan talks about their recent trip to Sudan to discuss the Project.
I made a visit to Sudan in February 2015 as part of an ongoing project to digitise Sudanese cultural resources held in libraries, archives, museums and private collections throughout the country: Digital Sudan. This is something I have been working for the last two years with a Sudanese cultural NGO: SUDAAK, the Sudanese Association for Archiving Knowledge. My visit to Sudan seemed an ideal opportunity to connect with colleagues for discussions on the academic book in the region, and so I was invited to give a paper on the project at Alzaim Alzazhari University in Khartoum North, organized by the Sudanese Library Association.
The lecture was attended by around 70 librarians and academics, and they could not have been more enthusiastic about the project. There was a lively debate after the presentation, and they expressed a willingness to be involved in the project. They are planning to set up a local Academic Book committee, co-ordinated by Fawzia Galeledin on behalf of SUDAAK, and they will contact local publishers and academics and organise joint events. Most academic publishing in Sudan is in Arabic, but Sudanese scholars would like their work to be more widely known and accessible, so the possibility of being translated into English was discussed. They have access to online books and journals in English through various international initiatives, but they were very interested in the possibility of a more two-way dialogue which would only be possible if their work were more widely accessible—which means it being in English.
The committee will organise focus groups to debate a range of research questions that we can supply, though they will probably need to be amended for local use. They were also extremely excited at the idea of Academic Book Week and will arrange some events to correspond with this. We also discussed the possibility of an exchange in Academic Book Week: perhaps someone from Sudan could come to London, and I could go to Sudan.
The reception of the project in a country far removed from us was astonishing, and the opportunities our Sudanese colleagues could see in discussing the future of academic publishing with us was heartening.