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Location: Kyoto and Auckland
Work interests: research, editing, science communication
Affiliation/website: National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka
Preferred contact method: Any
Preferred contact language(s): English, German
Contact: email = researchcooperative-at-gmail-dot-com
Favourite publications: Various, and especially the open access versions of older journals with effective review systems

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Work: ethnobotany, prehistory, museum curation
Affiliations: 1996-present: National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka. 1995: Freelance editor, Kyoto. 1994: JSPS Research Visitor, Kyoto University, Kyoto. 1993: Research Visitor, Australian National University, Canberra. 1991: Visiting Researcher, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka.1990: STA Fellow, National Institute for Ornamental Plants, Vegetables, and Tea (NIVOT), Ano, Japan
Contact: National Museum of Ethnology, Senri Expo Park, Suita City, Osaka, Japan 565-8511
Biographical: Established the Research Cooperative in 2001
Favourite Publications: Various

What are the opportunities for research during a global recession?

2008-10-11
By: Research Cooperative
Posted in: Work

If a global recession continues to deepen, this is likely to depress basic economic activities related to food, water, energy, transport and construction.

In this situation, can government leaders and investors give education and research more attention, in order to build livelihoods and economies over the long term, after giving too much attention to financial pyramid schemes? Or will all areas of social activity be dragged down?

Some economists encourage public spending in a time of recession, in order support employment and family incomes. This usually takes the form of spending on material infrastructure, rather than say, providing free training in trade skills, more access to higher education, and more funds for research that might lead to new economic opportunities.

As researchers, language specialists, and publishers, can we look ahead and see new opportunities for research and for society?

In a time of global recession, it is more important than ever for wealthier nations to support economic development in poorer nations (alongside development in the wealthier nations).

The goal should be a greater diversity of local and international economic activity, with greater potential for reducing transport distances and economic risk. A deflated world economy could become a better economy, if it is developed with care.

Industrial nations of the world have been like an untrained horde sprinting on a short track towards a brick wall, with all eyes pointing in the same direction, but not seeing. It would be better if we could be more like long-distance runners, exploring the open landscape in many directions, with our eyes open for good routes.

Postscript:

The Asahi Shimbun, in the Japanese edition of the International Herald Tribune (10th October 2008), has an editorial celebrating the Nobel prize of a Japanese biologist (Oasamu Shimomura), and stating the need for more funding in basic research:

'When financial conditions are tight, budget allocations tend to concentrate oon applied research that offers the benefit of immediate practical use. Basic research tends to attract less investment because it is difficult to foresee how it can prove useful to future geenerations.... [but] 'the government needs to realize that applied research cannot proceed without a solid foundation in basic research'.

I would like to add two further points:

(1) If this argument applies to a wealthy country suddenly facing a decline in wealth, it also applies to poor countries in which research of all kinds is chronically under-supported; scientists in even the poorest conditions can contribute to basic research, which may depend more on personal orientation and research freedom than on any particular level of research funding.

(2) Basic research is like the discovery that stone is a strong material; if we wish to reach the sky at the top of a pyramid, our basic understanding of stone allows us to build a real pyramid; this is an example of basic research knowledge that has served us well for millions of years; our modern pyramids of paper have created wonderful illusions, but we still need stone (or some modern synthetic version of it) if we want to stand in a high place.

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