Publishers support engineering projects in developing world

Elsevier and newly acquired Knovel support Engineers Without Borders USA

The EWB-USA Marquette University Student Chapter works on a water supply project with local residents in Honduras. (Photo from the EWB-USA Facebook page:

Hand-dug wells, composting latrines and hydropower systems are just some of the projects that Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) has assisted with in the developing world.

Now, various scientific publishers are offering their support through a plan that will make some of their books available to US chapters of the organization, free of charge. [caption align="alignright" width=300 ]

Participating publishers

The initiative was set in motion by Elsevier’s latest acquisition, Knovel (prounounced “novel”). The company is an aggregator of engineering and scientific content that tailors content to specific audiences. Over the past few months, Knovel has worked with Engineers Without Borders USA to put together a collection addressing the needs of its members. This collection will be available through EWB-USA’s recently launched online portal for 12 months at no cost.

Mary Perkins, Corporate and Individual Giving Manager for EWB-USA, explained what this means for the nonprofit organization: “This is the first time we’ve secured a technical resource and had it available to our members through the online repository. It’s only been online for a few weeks, but we know that our members are interested in as much research as possible to enhance the work they’re doing with us. ”

‘Teach a man to fish (or dig wells) …’

Engineers Without Borders USA supports community-driven development programs worldwide by collaborating with local partners to design and implement sustainable engineering projects. The collection gathers texts on subjects that support the work being done, specifically in relation to the 70 percent of EWB-USA projects that assess water treatment, wastewater and water supply.
Photo courtesy of EWB-USA Portland ProfessionalsThe Portland Professionals Chapter of EWB-USA has done projects in Haiti, Tanzania and Ecuador.This is their water project in Les Anglais, Haiti, and they have since begun a project involving sanitation. Read more about these projects on their website.
(Photo by EWB-USA Portland Professionals on

The organization embraces the philosophy that it’s better to create growth rather than dependency – that, according to the well-known proverb, if you teach someone to fish, you feed them for a lifetime

Working collaboratively with communities around the world is one of the key elements of Elsevier’s approach to corporate responsibility. Melissa Fulkerson, Senior Channel Manager for Elsevier Science and Technology Books, based in Boston, said this approach fuelled the decision to get involved.

“It’s important for us to offer this content to the people who need it most,” she said. “EWB-USA members are volunteering their time, so it’s important for us to do what we can to make their jobs easier and allow them to be more effective.”

In 2011, more than 100 student and professional chapters of Engineers Without Borders USA partnered with communities in 37 different countries to deliver projects that would change people’s lives. Members are professionals and students from a variety of fields, including engineering, public health, anthropology and business. They set up small-scale projects in communities across the world and then train local community members and local NGOs to successfully monitor and maintain the projects.

The program is set to run until the end of the year, at which point Knovel and Elsevier will assess whether to renew the commitment.

The other publishers involved are Wiley, Industrial Press, the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, Woodhead Publishing and the International Council on Mining and Metals.

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[divider] Ian Evans

The Author

Ian Evans is Communications Business Partner for Global Internal Communications at Elsevier. He is based in Oxford.

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