A Significant Event
On May 28 through June 2, 2001, ethnobiologists and members of indigenous communities from around the world participated in a summit meeting. This gathering was called Building Bridges with Traditional Knowledge. This was the largest ethnobotanical meeting that had been held anywhere in the world.
Over 1200 participants representing more than 70 countries came together in Honolulu, Hawai`i. The meeting was so large that more than 300 speakers were organized into 45 concurrent and plenary sessions.
Excerpts from the comments written by participants show the enthusiasm that was generated by this gathering.
- "Building Bridges with Traditional Knowledge was a wonderful meeting and Hale Kuai Cooperative is pleased that we could be a part of it. So many participants were genuinely interested in our program and the products made by indigenous Hawaiians. Our volunteers were happy to exchange information with people from other countries." Rebekah Luke, Hale Kuai Cooperative, Hawai`i.
- "Building Bridges II was one of the finest and best conferences I have attended." Eglee Lopez-Zent, Ph.D., Departamento de Antropologia, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas (IVIC), Caracas, Venezuela.
- "It was a fantastic meeting in every respect, and this is not just my own judgement but the judgement of everyone I spoke to, especially my students. They were, like me, really inspired by the whole experience." John Rashford, Ph.D., College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina.
- "I attended most of the morning Hawaiian sessions, and they were amazing." Sheri Calkins, J.L. Hudson, Seedsman, California.
- "Building Bridges was the experience of a lifetime for all of us." Jeanine Pfeifer, ECO-SEA, Indonesia.
- "It was a wonderful environment in which to hold a conference." Rick Stepp, Ph.D., University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia.
- "Thank you for the wonderful conference!" Tamar Hoffman, M.D., Straub Hospital, Honolulu.
One of the purposes of the conference was to organize, discuss, and disseminate ideas about the discipline of ethnobotany. A key goal was the publication of the Proceedings of the conference.
A New York Institution had agreed to publish the Proceedings. Four months after the meeting, terrorist attacks in New York caused the cancellation of the publication arrangement. The conference organizers were left with a large set of manuscripts.
The organizers consulted the authors and a thorough discussion followed. The majority of authors decided that the manuscripts should be used to start a new journal. This journal would be founded on a set of philosophies and values that would set the journal apart from the others that were currently available. This fresh start let us dream about how we could best serve the international ethnobotanical community. We would build the new journal from our best dreams.
The resulting dream was that a scientific journal would be produced that is dedicated to the publication of all kinds of information about traditional knowledge. This journal will uphold high standards of cultural and academic excellence. This journal will also be free of charge to both those who publish in it and those who use it. Of particular relevance was the hope that increasingly, people who actually hold the traditional knowledge, or are from the cultures with the knowledge, will be those who decide how this cultural knowledge is used and disseminated.
Ethnobotany Research and Applications (ERA) was born of that dream in 2001.
Mission of the Journal Ethnobotany Research and Applications
The mission of ERA is to repatriate knowledge and to re-empower knowledge holders. This is particularly needed in re-developing countries where former colonial administrations removed developed and viable economies and disempowered traditional political-social and religious structures in favor of exogenous ones.
A key to facilitating repatriation and empowerment is the recognition of the power of language. Authors gain different forms of power through their choice of language. In choosing to use a globalized colonial language, messages may be spread widely and reach many people. In choosing to use traditional language, an author lends dignity to his or her traditional knowledge and retains that knowledge within its original framework. ERA encourages an author to choose the language that is most appropriate for the needs of their knowledge communities.
Universal accessibility is an important part of the journal's mission. As a result, ERA was built, from the beginning, on an Internet model of communication. This allows manuscripts to be published and distributed at no cost. It also provides more flexibility in the inclusion of information, such as color photographs, that are otherwise expensive to disseminate.
ERA is a peer-reviewed journal that strives to maintain a high-standard of quality. Manuscript authorship is only one part of the publication process. The mission of ERA includes the need for active participation by the international community in the peer-review process. This includes the review and editing of manuscripts. The choice of publishing in traditional languages, for example, makes global participation necessary.