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We regard Ptolemy as an experiment in providing access to the medical literature and evaluating how the information is used. The next stage will involve electronic “hit” analysis to provide a clearer view of which resources are most useful to our African colleagues. Ptolemy functions to fortify a fragile emerging research community of African surgeons and we are now engaging them in a Delphi process to identify priorities for surgical development in East Africa. Our participants are, after all, the experts and so we are building the Ptolemy group into an interactive research community focused on finding African solutions to African problems. Ptolemy provides a readily reproducible model for the dissemination of the medical literature and research community building in developing regions. We are working to insert a clause in all the library’s agreements with publishers acknowledging that a certain proportion of library accounts will be made available to the university’s research affiliates in poor countries. We seek to persuade other universities to build similar partnerships with colleagues in developing countries. It would be particularly helpful to link African HIV researchers in a similar type of project with their counterparts at a major northern university.

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