on my visits to Cuba I was impressed by the high level of scientific research conducted there in spite of extremely difficult conditions. The advanced biotechnology R&D in Cuba represents a real opportunity for the country to overcome isolation and poverty by exporting products that the majority of the world population desperately need but can’t afford to buy from the big pharma corporations (Current Biology vol. 14, no. 11, pp R401-R402, 2004). Surprisingly for me, the access to information (both electronic and printed) was at least as significant a problem for researchers in Cuba as the shortage of hard currency for the import of instruments.
It occurred to me that I have lots of scientific books that I don’t really need, e.g. books that I reviewed, or ones that I once needed for a long-forgotten research project. I have therefore taken up the monthly (or so) routine of sending one of these books to a friend in Cuba who has agreed to make sure that each book is made accessible and useful for as many researchers as possible. (It appears that the copies of my own books which I brought on my visit are now making a complete tour of the island!)
If you have any science books (in English) that you no longer need and that take away precious shelf space, I encourage you to do the same. A typical book (800g) will cost around GBP 3 to send (surface mail from the UK) and it will be immensely valuable and useful for scientists there. (The packaging comes free as I recycle cardboard boxes and jiffybags in which I have received books myself.) If you would like to send some books too, please contact me and I can provide suitable mailing addresses.