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Location: Kyoto and Auckland
Work interests: research, editing, ethnobotany, prehistory, plant genetics
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: Aroideana, Economic Botany, Farming Matters, PLoSOne

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Work: ethnobotany, plant ecology and genetics, human ecology, agricultural history, archaeology, museology
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: Economic Botany, Ethnobotany Research and Applications, New Scientist, Minpaku Anthropology Newsletter, Archaeology in Oceania

The 'Riken Affair" and home schooling

2014-04-22
By: Research Cooperative
Posted in: Japan

My son here in Japan is of an age when he is seriously beginning to think about what it might be like to enter university... and why he might want to do that. He doesn't have much experience of writing, and writing does not seem to be a strong concern at his mid-level, local highschool. We expect that he will face a steep learning curve if he does go to university.

Few the last few weeks though, there has been continuous daily coverage of the 'STAP cell" controversy, also known as the "Riken Affair". The affair started with publication of a paper in Nature by researchers at Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research ('Riken'). One strand of the story goes back to the university training of the young researcher who was first author of the coauthored paper.

Her PhD was found to contain plagiarised elements, that were further copied into the paper published in Nature, despite there being no stated connection with the thesis in the Nature paper. Concern has been raised about standards of training and supervision at universities where some staff may have too many PhD students to give sufficient attention to their work.

In the Focus column of the Japan Times (Friday 18th April 2014), it is noted that a growing number of universities in Japan are introducing software systems to detect plagiarism in academic papers. At the same time, universities have started to publish all doctoral theses online, following introduction of a rule by the education ministry that made this mandatory.

The two systems most commonly used by universities here appear to be internationally-known products called iThenticate and Turnitin.

I hope the use of such systems to deter plagiarism does not become a substitute for teaching students how to learn, think, and write. Unexpectedly, we've been having family discussions about research, writing, and publishing. A good result of the Riken Affair has been some home schooling that may help our son think more realistically the purpose of a university education.

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