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Blogs: 144
Pages: 1
Memos: 119
Invitations: 1
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

Founding Member



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

Category: Conferences

Carbon offsetting for my conference flight


By Research Cooperative, 2016-11-15

During the 1st International Congress for Agrobiodiversity, New Delhi, 6.-9. Nov., 2016, one of our speakers asked how many participants had paid for carbon offsetting because of their travel emissions. Very few had done so, among the hundreds of participants.

Since the Congress was about biological diversity, and in part about the ongoing effects of climate change on crop production and crop diseases, I decided after the Congress to personally pay a travel CO2 offset via the World Land Trust.

The primary aims of this UK-based NPO are to ensure conservation of plants, animals and natural communities in areas at risk worldwide. These aims are close to my own interest, and the interest of the Congress, so I chose to donate to WLT.

Another organisation that does something similar is the organisation Natural Capital Partners, through its carbonneutralcalculator for air flights.

The two organisations offer very different carbon emission calculations for the same flight route.

The calculations are merely guestimates, but I do not mind too much, since my action is voluntary for a cause I approve of. Nevertheless, it would be good if the different calculators used by different organisations can be compared and somehow tested for accuracy.

There are many carbon emission calculators out there. Are any of them realistic?

Posted in: Conferences | 0 comments

The worst smog and two conferences in New Delhi


By Research Cooperative, 2016-11-05

Here I am recovering from flu on the 12th floor of a hotel overlooking the center of the capital of India. From my window I can see barely 200 m. It is the worst smog in this city in 17 years, according to the local news reports.

The vague silhouettes of two large hawks glide by about 50 m away. I suspect there is no chance of them spying food on the ground from this height.

About 1km away, far out of view, the biennial Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is taking place at thVigyan Bhawan Conference Centre.

Why is it so difficult for societies to prevent human-made disasters such as smog? If we cannot deal with the simplest and most obvious of dangers, created by our own local actions, how can we possibly deal with global disasters such as rapid climate change?

_1470003.jpgView towards Vigyan Bhawan and India Gate.
Neither is visible though merely 1-2 km distant. (PJM 5th November 2016).

I am waiting for the start of the 1st International Agrobiodiversity Conference, 6. - 9. Nov. 2016, here in New Delhi. There will be many papers concerned with serious issues, but I wonder if we can have an emergency session on the role of agrobiodiversity in reducing CO2 emissions in forestry and agriculture?

One of the causes of the current smog in New Delhi is the burning of crop residues by farmers in neighbouring regions of Northern India. This is an old practice, so it should not be a scapegoat for the present crisis. What is new is the addition of car and truck traffic and poorly controlled use of diesel powered vehicles. Neverthless, we should ask if crop management practices can be changed to help reduce the smog. Can crop stubble be transformed into high value products such as fermented fertilisers, or energy for carbon-neutral transport or farm machinery?

Farmers have many reasons to burn crop stubble. Ash has a direct benefit for soil, and burning also helps to break the life-cycles of some pests and diseases. The human labour or machinery needed for field management is less with fire than with other methods of removing and treating stubble. Burning may reduce the need for expensive agrichemicals to manage field hygiene. Burning is part of an established complex system, and changing the process would have many downstream consequences. To replace burning with other methods requries a lot of thought about the entire food production system and how all the parts integrate with each other.

Ideally, biologically-diverse agroforestry systems that do not require burning can add value to unburnt straw from cereal crops, can be more productive, and can support the human, animal, and mechanical requirements needed for their operation, as well as creating surplus for use by urban populations.

That's an ideal - but can such an alternative be created to the current open, mono-cultural field systems of northern India? It is no use telling farmers to stop burning without providing incentives and practical models  that can replace current practices.

Should we be holding a joint session on environmental risk management and agrobiodiversity?

Are there any Ministers willing to gate-crash the Agrobiodiversity party? Are there any Agriculturalists willing to gate-crash the Risk-Reduction party? Or do we all party on, in our separate spheres of interest, while the world burns around us? 

I am breathing the same air as those birds outside, for a few days.

Fortunately for me, I can fly further and faster to escape this immediate problem, but I am contributing much more to the problem than they are. For their sake, and for sake of people who must perservere in conditions like this, I hope I can learn something useful over the next few days, and apply this to my work as a crop historian and science writer.

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Conference organizing


By Research Cooperative, 2016-01-24

Globally there may be thousands of academic conferences, small and large, held around the world each year.

In my own limited experience, most academic conferences are initiated and organised by academic institutions and staff. The larger meetings may involved commercial conference support services and organizing of various kinds, but the commercial services and organizers have not initiated any of the meetings I have attended.

Currently I am involved with preparations for the 8th World Archaeology Congress to be held in Kyoto in late August this year (see wac8.org).

My role is relatively minor - a theme co-organizer responsible for assessing session proposals and paper submissions for one of the main themes of the Congress.

It is a large congress that is held every few years in a different part of the world, and may attract as many as 2,000 participants, approximately. High registration fees are requested for participants from wealthier nations, and these fees will be used for preparation, support staff during the Congress, and to support attendance by many participants from low-income countries. The Congress also depends on academic funding sources, sponsorships, and extended volunteer efforts by many people.

A Congress organized in this matter depends largely on cooperation, good will and good communication among a large number of people scattered around the world.

To coordinate all this requires a quite deep hierarchical structure of committees and organizing teams. At the same time, any member of the WAC membership is free to contact key persons at any level in the organization.

The formal structure is much needed, but we also depend on informal networking and contacts to raise issues that have been overlooked and to bring problems to light at as soon as possible.

The organizing process begins with a decision about where to hold each Congress years in advance, usually during or soon after the preceeding Congress. The process is relatively transparent, and participants can readily learn about the history of the Congress and its academic foundations.

When considering whether to join this or any other academic meeting, it is useful for potential participants to study the origin and history of the meeting, the motives and aims of the organizers, and the results or publications of past meetings involving the same organizers or organization.

Having said all that, if an enitrely new meeting is proposed by an enthusiastic academic team with new ideas, then the lack of any established meeting series or history should not matter.

What matters most is whether or not the meeting will be useful for the participants, for the research field, and as a stimulus for research communication.

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A 'remotely' managed conference in Paris (EurASEAA15)


By Research Cooperative, 2015-08-01

Last month I had the good fortune to attend a conference in Paris:

15th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists,

6 -10 July 2015, Universit Paris Ouest, Nanterre la Dfense (EurASEAA15).

I presented a paper in a session on plant and animal domestication, and enjoyed a variety of archaeology papers by participants from many different countries.

The conference was organised by an organisation called NomadIT:

"NomadIT is a team of down-to-earth freelance administrators, event organisers and IT specialists who work remotely using internet and email technologies to assist NGOs, educational and voluntary sector organisations to run their organisations and events."

Although the organiser works remotely, there were enough actual people helping at the campus venue. They looked like graduate students doing summer part-time work. They set up desks, posted emergency notices about room changes, organised bad coffee and limited snacks. Their nationalities were obscure. French? English? Other? They seemed able to speak to everyone.

It would have been nice if the helpers could have been introduced as part of the conference, rather than being practically anonymous. On two mornings, I passed through a fruit market in Nanterre Ville on the way to the venue, and could buy stawberries and cherries to distribute to other conference members. I wanted to generate some discussion through some good-tasting fruit. I'm an ethnobotanist. I was happy to have an excuse to buy something in the local market.

A conference is a temporary community where good communication is what ultimately determines success. We come together from remote regions of the world, and should use the conference to listen and learn and make connections, formally and informally. The conference is an opportunity for serendipity -- a plan for the unplanned.

This conference did well enough with a limited budget. Who knows, perhaps it did very well. I am sure the experience was different for every person who joined.

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International Aroid Conference almost starting


By Research Cooperative, 2013-12-10

After many months of preparation, the International Aroid Conference will soon start (tomorrow, 11th December 2013), here at the Army Hotel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, in northern Vietnam.

In fact it seems to have already started, for two reasons...

1. Participants have started arriving, from Europe, North America, and Asia (Africa also?), including myself. Now we are wandering about in our old and cavernous hotel, wondering who is who. For some of us, it is our first time to join the Aroid conference and we know very few of the other people.

2. Since a year ago, we have built and used a small online social network in order to organise the conference and announce development of the programme.

See: aroids.ning.com

In the process, we have already started talking to each other, and have created the foundation for what could be a perpetual online conference.

We can keep this network running after the conference, until our publishing efforts are over, or perhaps until the next conference in 3-4 years time, so that the next group of organisers does not have to repeat the process of setting up a website, and network.

If we can identify organisers for the next conference, I might try to show them how to manage a our Ning network.

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6th World Archaeology Congress (WAC6)


By Research Cooperative, 2008-06-05

At the end of June (29th June - 4th July, 2008) I will be attending WAC6 in Dublin, Ireland, and I plan to try and recruit more members during the conference.

If you happen to be attending the congress, and have found this message, please contact me if you would like to meet in Dublin.

I would be happy to discuss the aims and future development of the Cooperative, and how it could also help us in archaeology and related disciplines.

Thanks, Peter

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