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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: Work

Looking for a postdoctoral position

By Research Cooperative, 2018-07-15

The following note is advice that I gave to someone who joined the Research Cooperative and made a public request for help finding a postdoc position in a particular research field, but without providing any details of full range of interest, actual experience or publication record, present location, or a wished-for destination.

As a result, the best I could do was speak from my own experience, in general terms. Perhaps the story is useful for others too, in some way. 

* * * * 

I can't give any specific direction to ongoing work in your area.

What I can say is that opportunities are many if you can show sufficient ability (through publications and personal encounters) and interest (when speaking or corresponding with potential hosts).

In my own case (starting out as a post-doc in the more friendly 1990s), opportunities in Japan arose through my communication with students of my own generation, post-docs of my own generation, and eventually with potential senior hosts.

I gave seminars whenever and wherever I could find an interested audience for my work. I explored potential work places while working on short-term contracts in nearby work places. And I kept writing and publishing my own single-author papers and reviews whether or not I had a current employer.

In fact I never applied for an advertised position but was able to find hosts to support my applications (to Japanese government funding agencies) for funding to work in particular labs on projects of mutual interest.

Whenever I had income I invested as much as possible in my own work, field travel and equipment, and kept working and writing. I had my own research direction and goals and found people and institutions willing to support me.

I found people and work opportunities through proactive correspondence (which is what you have done by joining this network; thank you for joining).

All this is to say:  have courage, and have faith that the work you do matters and needs to be done, and keep looking for opportunities wherever they may be, and keep looking for ways to add to your experience and learning.

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Research cooperation: Yes? No?

By Research Cooperative, 2016-12-26

Cooperation may be the lifeblood of scientific research, but individuals working in isolation can also make significant breakthroughs - in part because of their isolation. Freedom from distractions!

For most researchers though, some degree of cooperation with others is necessary in order to be employed by a university department or other organisation, and in order to obtain funds from granting agencies. This can go too far though - it may be comfortable to be agreeable and cooperative at all times with all people, but this may come at the expense of an effective focus on individual effort. Being agreeable can lead us into endless administrative time wasting, or into worthwhile work that is not our own, and which may not be fully acknowledged.

So what is the ideal balance, in our cooperative and individual approaches to research?

This has to depend on the character of each person, the character of the social and cultural context, and the character of the research intended. Medical science often depends, for example, on the existence of willing participants in clinical trials. Anthropology and many other field sciences cannot proceed without the agreement of local communities and land owners.

A theoretical mathematician may have the least need for cooperation, as far as the work itself is concerned, but is still a human being with human needs for social interaction and recognition of the value of the work. The great diversity of ways of approaching mathematics and finding inspiration for mathematical thinking may mean that mathematics, as a field, needs people who occupy the entire spectrum of social engagement - from extreme isolation to extreme cooperation.

A particular research project may also need to move from less cooperative to more cooperative phases, over time. The most simple example of this is when the individual working in isolation eventually seeks to publish a piece of work, and wishes to have it published in a peer-reviewed journal. The isolationist who remains isolationist when attempting to publish may find the process of publishing unpleasant because of the need to not offend journal editors and reviewers.

Not offending does not mean that agreeing with editors and reviewer is necessary. Critical and constructive argument about a submitted paper, and a certain amount of tension among all involved, are needed to raise not only the standards of writing, but also the standards of editing and review.

The publishing process is not a one-way-street with only the editors and reviewers in a position of power. Authors also have the power to choose where they try to publish, and should think carefully about their choices. Writing and publishing are also part of the research process. These activities bring us into contact with readers, and through our readers new opportunities for research and cooperation may arise.

Research, independence, interdependence, writing, publishing, reading, the ending of one project, and the beginning of another.... these are all intertwined, and become more so when research is pursued over many years. Possibilities for cooperation may grow faster than our ability to actually join new projects and interact with others effectively. There are times to say yes, and times to say no.

Which somehow makes me think of a Beatles song: "Hello, Goodbye".

The relationship of a scientist with his or her work must also have ups and downs. That's life, that's how science should be, and that's how this particular blog post should end.

Posted in: Work | 0 comments

Though happy in my in my job, I do sometimes wonder what other people earn doing similar work in other countries... and how that might relate to the local cost of living. This is not a very useful exercise.

It would be more useful if I could judge the scientific and educational value of using some of my income to regularly employ an editor to look at everything I write, even though I am an experienced writer, am also active as an editor, and am not expected to produce work for high impact journals (though it would be apreciated, of course).

The basic expectation is that I produce work of relevance for my research discipline and for society in general, through a variety of ways, in academic and non-academic publications, by attending conferences, through teaching, and through museum exhibitions.

So... how much should I expect to pay for an editor? Someone with experience in publishing and writing generally?

Recently I discovered a website called I joined and then asked for a report on what I should pay, as a 'university', for a publications editor in Australia (the concept of 'employer' being an individual does not seem to be recognised).

The website generates a scenario job based on my answers to a series of questions, and describes the roles of publications editor as:

Ensuring adherence to a style guide, correct formatting and consistent use of language within a document; reviewing, rewriting and editing the work of other writers; developing story or content ideas; and holding a Bachelor's Degree. Supervisory Role: No. Skills should include Technical Writing, Writing Procedures & Documentation, Proposal Writing, Grant Writing, Scientific Writing. (my precis)

That's all rather more than I expected. I just want someone to read and edit my work, one-to-one. Still, I am after a benchmark to think about, so I looked further into the report.

The website automatically selects relevant profiles of existing subscribers to the service and uses these to generate a range of estimates.

For the particular job category I asked about, the site reports that there is much variability in compensation levels, so the estimates are not rated as highly accurate or reliable - a realistic caveat!

Here are the estimates given:

Base salary per year ($AUD): 60,607 (i.e. c. 5.8 million yen per year).

Hourly rate: $29.14 (i.e. c. 2,774 yen per hour)

This estimate was based on 165 profiles of people in the database.

The hourly rate looks reasonable to me, relative to pay scales and living costs in Australia and Japan, but I doubt that there are many jobs available for publication editors with a base salary that is so high.

For such a salary, the person would need to be managing editor of a very high impact journal that is able to attract high-paying authors or subscribers.

If many editors, proofreaders, and translators can submit profile information to (or a similar site), we might be able to get a more global view of what they are able to earn and expect in different countries.

That would be useful for all of us here at the Research Cooperative.

If you can recommend - for members of our network - other websites with information on pay scales, please comment on this blog post!

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Edit my holidays?

By Research Cooperative, 2014-11-03

My work at the museum is a constant series of distractions that interfere with my work at the museum... editing tasks for the museum that have little to do with the research writing and editing that I should be doing. Yet the museum as a whole is important, and I am happy if I can help the museum fulfil its role in public education.

So, here I am about to leave Japan for a short period of holidays in my home country, New Zild, and my bag is heavy with the research papers that I most urgently need to edit.



But... if can actually make time to relax, I am sure that my editing efforts will be much better as a result. I need the holidays, and the editing needs holidays too.

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Field work and thinking work

By Research Cooperative, 2014-08-27

This week I am in Taiwan with a new student, hunting plants and meeting people to learn about plants. We have a plan, but from day to day and moment to moment we cannot predict what we will see or hear.

What appears in front of us (we are mostly traveling by car) is very engaging, but in breaks from the action, we have many good chances to think about the project aims and future work.

This kind of back and forth is useful for both of us, and is one of the pleasures of being in the field. I guess lab workers can say the same thing about being inside the lab, and breaks from the lab work.

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Email account recovery and backup

By Research Cooperative, 2014-04-26

Recently my gmail account was hacked... meaning that someone else managed to get my login details, either by testing millions upon millions of username and password combinations or by using spyware on a public computer terminal at an airport or hotel.

Many of my friends and colleagues recieved spam mails as a result (mostly easy to detect Lagos-based spam). Many members of the Research Cooperative may have received a spam mail that appeared to be sent from my account. I apologise if this happened to you. I need to be more careful about where I use public Internet access.

This is difficult for me because I travel a lot, and do need Internet access at airports and hotels.

Perhaps I should keep a separate email account just for travel purposes.

Is this what other people do?

Luckily, I was told about the recent hacking problem by a friend who received the spam mail, very soon after my account was hacked. I was still able to log in and could change my password. All my past email had disappeared though, and I had to contact a Google support page to recover email from a backup at Google. Unfortunately, that may have only worked for relatively recent email since 2012. I am still not sure what was recovered and what was lost.

Now I am convinced that I need to backup my email independently from my email service provider.

There are many ways to do this, and today I found a useful site that explains what to do when an email account is hacked, and how to design or choose a backup system.


This blog does not provide a backup service. It only explains what to do.

Item 6 on the top page of the blog is an explanation of "How to Protect Your Account Details". This is relevant for any email system, not just gmail. The author gives a very nice review of different backup systems that can be used, and backup strategies in general.

This is important for my research and writing efforts because I use email for so much of my communication with students, colleagues, and publishers.

Perhaps every student and researcher should have basic training in email backup systems. This could be part of a general course on "Risk Management in Science".

If any members of our network have had experience of setting up a backup plan for email, please reply to this post, or describe your experience in a new blog post to our network (see "Add a Blog Post" underneath this post).

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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.


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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