Chief Admin


Blogs: 171
Pages: 4
Memos: 113
Invitations: 1
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

Founding Member

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

Category: Writing

Think, Write, Publish - and the Research Cooperative

By Research Cooperative, 2017-01-04

The "creative nonfiction" project that started at Arizona State University (ASU) continues today as the " Think, Write, Publish "  project... a project aimed at improving the communication of knowledge in society generally.

I first learned about this through a post by Research Cooperative member " Science Writer ".

The original 2010 post in a now defunct forum of the Research Cooperative is cited below for reference. Please visit the site above to learn about current activities of the project. A similar course was offered again in 2012, so it may be worth looking for similar opportunities at ASU in the future, under the umbrella of the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes (CSPO) .

Science writing is of direct interest for the Research Cooperative. Development of our network has only been possible with the emergence of low-cost social networking systems on the internet. The Research Cooperative is just one of many research-related social networks, but our aims are distinct from most other networks: we have a very practical focus on all the steps involved in research writing and publishing.

We are also creating opportunities for participation from across the full spectrum of people who are learning about research, doing research, and getting research published.

These are matters that I would be happy to explain in more detail to any science writer who would like to write a story involving the Research Cooperative, for any medium. I can offer to participate in an email interview, or to make time for a telephone interview.

If you are a science writer (or are trying to become one), and would like to discuss this matter, please contact me directly.

Thanks, Dr Peter J. Matthews, Japan.

Email: researchcooperative --at-- gmail --dot--- com.


A unique writing and publishing fellowship: To Think-To Write-To Publish--A program for "next generation" writers of any genre with an interest in science and technology. Learn creative nonfiction techniques. Develop and pitch ideas to book and magazine editors and literary agents. Publish your work. Featuring two intense days of writing, highlighted by an intimate and practical workshop with Lee Gutkind, author and editor of Creative Nonfiction Magazine and a conversation with New York Times science writer, Gina Kolata. Participents will enjoy an all expenses paid, five day retreat as the guest of the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes at Arizona State University, including a stay at the Mission Palms Hotel, Tempe, Arizona, plus a $500 honorarium. Application deadline is March 15, 2010.

For more details see our flier [no longer an active link] To apply contact Alexis at

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Academic writing and acknowledging contributors

By Research Cooperative, 2016-12-25

Consider the following questions.

  • How should we acknowledge sources and contributors in our research? What is fair; what is necessary?
  • Does making acknowledgments dilute the academic standing that writers seek for themselves and their supporting institutions?
  • How do we negotiate authorship when more than one person is involved in the research, and when more than one person is involved in the actual writing? Do we include the 'authors' of research as well as the authors of the paper?

Questions about sources, attribution, authority, and authorship form an active area of discussion on the internet, and at universities with strong research and teaching programmes. My own perspective, below, is rather broad and anthropological.

Research acknowledgments - and structural limitations on academic writing

Here is how Pliny acknowledged his sources, in the preface to his encyclopedia, Naturalis Historia (Natural History) published in circa AD 77-79:

'I have prefaced these volumes with the names of my authorities. I have done so because it is, in my opinion, a pleasant thing and one that shows an honourable modesty, to own up to those who were the means of one's achievements...'

Most publications owe their existence to many different people and organisations. Contributions can be made in many different ways, before, during and after the actual research has taken place, and during the writing process. For some publications, very few people are involved other than the author, and acknowledging contributions is a simple matter.

When many people are involved, acknowledging contributions is not always simple. Difficulties may arise because of writing conventions and formal limitations on the content and structure of academic writing.

Most academic or scientific papers have a fairly predictable, formal structure, and follow a series of written or unwritten rules or conventions. Academic journals and publishers have 'house rules' or 'author guidelines' that make the rules and conventions explicit. These are very important for maintaining academic standards, and also make it easier for readers to focus on content and meaning after becoming familiar with the conventions.

Author guidelines and house rules

Experimental research papers often have the same basic structure:

Title, Author(s), Author affiliation(s), Abstract, Keywords, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Discussion, Conclusions, Acknowledgments, References, Appendices

Depending on the rules of each publisher, different kinds of contribution can be acknowledged in different places, namely:

1. the identification and sequence of authors and coauthors
2. notes on author affiliations
3. introductory comments
4. personal communications cited in the text
5. unpublished notes and data cited in the text
6. references cited in the text
7. acknowledgments

In the social sciences, footnotes are often also used, and these can also include various kinds of acknowledgment.

Some publishers do not permit the citing of personal communications and unpublished notes or data. When someone is cited in a personal communication, only the name and date may be given, within the text or in a footnote. Some authors identify the source of a pers. comm. more fully in the acknowledgments, noting the person's job description, institutional affiliation, and role or relationship to the author. All of this information can be used to establish the authority of the person being cited, and to make their contribution more clear to readers.

Contributions and contributors, authors and coauthors

A wide range of possible contributions and contributors are indicated in the categories below. If you can suggest further categories, please tell us.

1. Authorship
By authors and coauthors. Many universities offer guidelines about who should or should not be recognised as authors and coauthors (see Bibliography below).

2. Advice and discussion
Advisors and discussants who have helped in obtaining, recording, or interpreting information may be research colleagues, formally appointed advisors, informally adopted advisors, supervisors, technicians, editors, and others.
Ethical advice may be provided by a university or government ethics committee for example, or a private organisation that represents certain stakeholders.

3. Initiating research and project motivations
The author or someone else may be primarily responsible for initiating the research being published. How a research project began, and the people involved, can be described in the introduction, in a footnote, or in the final acknowledgements. Even if it is not possible to identify a single starting point, it should be possible to explain the main motivations for a project, and the people involved.
It is surprising how often motivations are not made clear, even when private commercial motivations are not involved. When publishing some kinds of research, the authors or their sponsors might not want private commercial interests to be revealed.

4. Supervision
Supervisors may be student supervisors, project supervisors, or government agencies and private stakeholders who have some kind of authority over a project. Not all kinds of supervision involve discussion and interpretion of the actual research.

5. Financial support
Granting agencies, foundations, trusts, private companies, not-for-profit organisations (NPOs), relatives, or the researcher him- or herself, and other funding sources may provide scholarships, living expenses or research money.
It is usual for greater academic status to be associated with non-personal sources because obtaining them implies that some kind of objective assessment has been made of the researcher's abilities and the quality of the research.
For this reason, family and friends are often not achnowledged, except where convention permits this in the dedication of a book or thesis. In the latter contexts, it is usually understood that a large component of personal time and effort may be involved, and that near-family may deserve some acknowledgement.

6. Personal support
Personal or private supporters such as family and friends often provide encouraging words, food, housing, transport, and other practical assistance. Such support can be seen as moral encouragement because it shows social acceptance for research efforts that are often carried out in relative solitude. If and how personal support is acknowledged in publication follows from considerations similar to those noted above for financial assistance.

7. Help and information from field sources - usually non-academic.
In field-based research (i.e. research conducted in places and social situations where the researcher is an outsider) guides, informants, interpreters, and others are often sources of oral information, or may provide practical demonstrations of various kinds of activity. Other communities within academia itself can be fields for some kinds of research, so field sources are not necessarily non-academic.

8. Providing archival information and materials.
For many kinds of research and writing, essential help is provided by archivists, librarians, and research assistants working in libraries and other archives. Even though this is their expected role, the people and institutions involved should be acknowledged if they have been important for a research or writing project, and if the writer wishes to give back support for support given.

9. Permissions and permits.
For various aspects of research and writing, permissions and permits may have been obtained from public and private authorities. Some examples are national park managers, government research and security agencies, university authorities, community leaders, and the leaders of companies and other organisations.

10. Writing services - academic editing, proofreading, translation, etc.
When writing services are requested and paid for as a commercial transaction, it can be argued that no public acknowledgement is required because money has been paid. However, in order to do their job well, editors and translators often need to think deeply about what they are reading. If they are familiar with the research subject or related fields, then it should be no surprise if they offer ideas and information that are significant for the content and interpretation of research. Such intellectual contributions should be acknowledged out of respect for the contributors, and so that others can properly judge the contributions of authors. In fact, a good writer will be open to non-trivial suggestions from any direction, will make his or her own judgements about all suggestions, and will acknowledge the help received privately or in the publication.


The present mini-review of possible contributions and contributors is meant to illustrate the social reality of how research is done and published. Many contributions and contributors are never acknowledged for logistical reasons. Because the overall space available for a hard-copy publication is always limited, authors and publishers must also place limits on each component of the publication. This is also true for online publications that are subject to editorial control, even though though physical space and weight are not limiting factors. Allocating space to acknowledgements is a matter of balance as well as cost, and priorities must vary for different kinds of contribution.

A few basic rules

My own opinion is that authors are generally not inclusive enough. Perhaps three very basic or general rules can be recommended:

(i) Authors should be as inclusive as possible - as far as space and publishing rules permit, and with consideration for balance, fairness, and the particular importance of each contribution.

(ii) Readers should be able to learn something about all significant contributors, especially when the contributions might otherwise be assumed to come from the author or authors.

(iii) Readers should be able to recognise the academic and social contexts in which research and writing were conducted. Making acknowledgements is an important contribution to the description of methods, from the start to finish of a research project.

Why are the contexts important?

Providing information about academic and social contexts is important because it can help future readers find starting points for exploring and verifying the research reported... even if there were good ethical reasons for not being completely explicit about all aspects of context.

In anthropology for example, exactly where research was conducted, and the real names of informants, are often not stated. This is done out of respect for the privacy of informants and local communities, and should be accompanied by a statement explaining that aliases have been used. Even in this kind of work, informants and communities can be thanked and acknowledged without being named, or by using aliases that become known through contact with the authors.

Only in the (fictional) International Online Journal of Acknowledgements might we find that more attention is paid to the contributors than contributions. This is an absurd fiction of course. Yet such a journal might eventually be useful as an adjunct to research in many fields, providing essentially unlimited space for acknowledging (and perhaps also claiming) contributions to research. Already, some online and paper journals are providing links to online information and discussion that is not presented in the main publication.

Although I prefer to err in the direction of inclusiveness when writing my own papers, and despite the example you are reading now, I doubt the value of linking every publication to an ever expanding network of information sources.

It is important for writers to bring focus to a particular subject, and to create works that can be read and largely understood without reference to other sources - by readers in a target audience. This creates a discipline that helps in the writing process, and it also makes the resulting work more transportable, physically and conceptually. It is a piece that has an end, and can be talked about and discussed as a distinct entity, with clearly defined sources.


Comments are welcome, and may be used for future revisions. For a more concise view of the same subject, here is a poem for writers: Read it!

Thank you.


The author thanks his employer, The National Museum of Ethnology , for allowing time to prepare this article. The articles noted in the bibliography are not cited above but were useful in various ways.


1. The Legal Rights of Collaborators And Joint Authors
By Attorney Lloyd J. Jassin

2. Writing a scientific paper
By S.R. Raidal, S.M. Jaensch and F Stephens.
Division of Veterinary and Biomedical Science, Murdoch University, Perth, WA

3. Prevalence of Articles With Honorary Authors and Ghost Authors in Peer-Reviewed Medical Journals
By Annette Flanagin, RN, MA; Lisa A. Carey, PhD; Phil B. Fontanarosa, MD; Stephanie G. Phillips, MS, PhD; Brian P. Pace, MA; George D. Lundberg, MD; Drummond Rennie, MD. (JAMA. 1998;280:222-224)

4. Multiple Authorships
By Barry Werner & Mary Beth Niergarten
(The Scientist 6[10]:12, May. 11, 1992)

Approved by the Graduate Council of the Faculty Senate on 2 April 1990.

6. Guidelines for Coauthorship of Scholarly Publications

7. Responsible Authorship
By Caroline Whitbeck
(The Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science)

8. Authorship ethics.
By Syrett, Kristen L. & Rudner, Lawrence M. (1996)
Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 5(1).

9. Robert Harris (2004) Pompeii (a novel). Arrow Books (source for the quote by Pliny).

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Don't tell it all

By Research Cooperative, 2015-09-15

Look - I managed to keep the number of words down to four even though I could easily make the title much longer.

Longer means more important, right? Especially if all the buzz words and tropes can be included. It's hard for some to resist the grand academic subtitle. Using a long subtitle is a great way to pad the title space.

Here's an example of the full whizz-bang:

"Don't tell it all: Short titles lead to greater interest and academic impact, long titles repel potential readers by saying too much, or getting tangled, or repeating words and becoming repetitive"

Having said all that in my title, what more would I need to say? And why would anyone bother to read the whole paper if it existed?

A great paper on the subject does exist, but was not written by me. Here it is:

A. Letchford, H. S. Moat, and T. Preis (2015) "The advantage of short paper titles" Royal Society Open Science (26 August 2015,DOI:10.1098/rsos.150266).

After looking at citation records for scientific papers with longer and shorter titles, in a huge sample of 140,000 papers, the authors suggest three possible explanations for the correlation. They also note (in the abstract) that papers with shorter titles may tend to be written more clearly, and indicate (in conclusion) that they plan to study the relationship between stylistic attributes of content and citation frequency.

It's quite a revealing study overall. Some papers with long-winded titles do get cited a lot, but on average, it's probably better to go with a shorter title.

That is not the whole story though.

Different high impact journals seem to favour shorter or longer titles on average. It's probably good to go with the flow of the journal you want to publish in... if it's a good journal.

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At the PCST list, PB Jarreau wrote last week:

I have around 450 responses now to my survey for science bloggers, about science blogging practices. Please share this survey link in any forums where you know science bloggers might pick up on it:

I think this survey will be very unique in collecting data on content production practices from a significant portion of the science blogosphere. This type of data is hard to come by, so please help me make this survey count!


-Paige Brown Jarreau


PhD Candidate, Manship School of Mass Communication

Louisiana State University

Posted in: Writing | 1 comments

Writing but not publishing

By Research Cooperative, 2013-10-23

I seem to do a lot of writing without actually publishing. Maybe it's because I'm a proactive editor and have a lot other people's writing to look at, as part of my research job.

For the last couple of weeks, its been a race to prepare a grant application, distilling the essence from work over the last four years into a couple of pages. The results have been intoxicating for me, but for others it may look like nothing special.... just more data? It's hard to look objectively at our own writing.

I'm hoping the internal review by my employer will pick up problems before they reach the outside agency reviewers who have to assess the application. For the first time this year, in Japan, it has been possible to submit a research application entirely in English.

I'm a slow writer too. I like to accumulate enough new information to make rich paper, but often it is a mix of different kinds of information that have to be integrated. I tend to write first and then think about where to publish according to the nature of the work and the paper. I don't stick to one journal or publisher, or one format or style, and I like to reach diverse audiences.

What are my top ten favourite journals? That's hard to say, given the range of my interests. I'd like to ask other members of the Research Cooperative the same question. It would probably be hard for all of us. Maybe I should make it just the top three...

My favourite journal - top of the list - is probably the next one that publishes a paper I write... but only until the next paper is published in another journal.

I'm loyal to the idea of doing original research and writing, but not to any particular publisher. Which means I have to learn how to talk to different publishers and editors, and have to learn about different ways of writing. Not sticking to one publishing home is also a good way to keep learning new things about writing and publishing. I hope this helps to make my writing fresh for readers, each time.

I do eventually publish some of what I write. The many half-done, or almost-finished-but-not-published papers lurk in my office, and in my mind. Parts of them may later reappear in published work. Writing is thinking, not just a mechanical process of replicating and rearranging words and using up paper - or screen space.

My office is an incubator, and I can't really say what will be hatching soon. How could I? I'm inside the egg, and its all dark here. At least I do enjoy all the poking around, here and there, in my little world.

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I'll repeat my answer here:

In my own work, I am happy to include as co-authors people who gave substantial help during the research process (e.g. as fieldwork collaborators) even if their contribution to the later writing is minimal: the information they help me gather as local experts, interpreters is surely part of the process.

Others who have given useful suggestions, financial support, or moral support during the research and writing can be acknowledged at the end. It seems that few journals have an explicit policy about acknowledgments, and few journals actively encourage authors to carefully consider and acknowledge non-author contributions. This may explain why the acknowledgments section of a paper is often neglected by authors. First-time authors may not be aware of the benefits they can gain by acknowledging sources of help (including any editors employed to edit a paper).

The benefits become apparent over time, as we can positively nuture our personal research and support network by acknowledging the people who help us along the way. Help appreciated is help that will be willingly given again. Rather than trying to minimise acknowledgments, we should always try to make them as full as possible, within the limits set by the publisher, and without overstatement or padding.

Looking at this another way, we should not be greedy to be listed as an author for a paper if an acknowledgment at the end is sufficient.

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Costs and expectations

By Research Cooperative, 2012-11-05

As writers, we researchers are lucky if we can find sympathetic and understanding colleagues to read and comment on our work in draft form. Sometimes, a coauthor may contribute less to the nuts and bolts of writing than a friendly reader (though the coauthor may have contributed in other ways that are also important).

Even when we pay for an editor to look at our work, it can be a matter of luck if costs and expectations match perfectly.

Finding an editor or editing company that can consistently provide such a match it not something we can expect to happen instantly. The best idea is to have more than one paper go through an editor, and to try different editors, and see if the costs and results are satsfactory.

Giving a draft to an editor is not the end of a writers work, it is really just the second stage in a process that may take several more steps. It is best to plan for a generous amount of time between completion of the first draft, and eventual submission to a publisher.

Some editing companies may offer quick or light editing at lower prices than slow and heavy editing. If the latter is really needed, for the intended use of the written work, than choosing quick and light may end up being more expensive and slower in the end, as the slow and heavy editing will still be necessary.

Writers need to make an effort to communicate openly and clearly with a possible editor or editing company before making a contract. Don't assume that others know exactly what you want or need, or what you can afford to pay.

If you cannot find any person or company to work with here in the Research Cooperative, consider again the people in your own circle of friends and colleagues. Can you ask for help closer to home? Can you offer something in return? Has your institution or department ever discussed how writing efforts can be supported from within the institution or department itself?

The Research Cooperative has been created to encourage a sense of the value of cooperation in academic research and publishing. This includes cooperation outside the confines of our own network, and outside the academic world. Even when commerical editors and translators are involved, it is best to approach them in a cooperative or collaborative way, not to see them as mere beasts of burden.

Most editors and translators who offer to work for academic writers are themselves academically trained to some extent - and often to a great extent. If we look around, and communicate with care and attention, people with a huge variety of interests and skills can be found.

So, to conclude: please expect real costs - in terms of your own time or money - if you wish to engage seriously with an editor, and see good results for your writing.

It is possible to have minimal costs, financially, if you can form or join a network of trusted friends or colleagues, to share work in progress and offer mutual support. But building and maintaining such a network is naturally a long-term and gradual process. It won't happen if you never try or make a start.

It is also possible to have reasonable costs and reasonable expectations, based on experience - and experience is a key word.

For example, if you have never worked with professional editors, learn how to make most effective use of the interaction, in order to get good value for the cost. And by good value, I do not mean just value for the particular work being published. I also mean good value for your experience.

Investing in a good editor can be similar to investing in a training course for a special skill - in this case, the skill of writing. If you can learn from your editors, that raises the value for money immensely.

Finally - weigh the cost needed to get your work published by your target publisher against the costs of:

- doing the actual research and writing, and

- not getting the work published in the place where you want it to go.

Investing (say) a month's salary in the publishing process, for a good piece of research, may eventually help you move into a better paying position in the same institution or another institution. The cost may be high in the short term, but if you have confidence in the research you have done, and a long-term interest in the subject, then it may not be a high cost in the long-term.

Researchers often face very uncertain employment conditions and prospects, but building up a record of original and well-written publications will certainly help in any quest for employment.

The quality is more important than the quantity - not just from the employer's point of view, but also so that we can be happy in ourselves, and confident about our own abilities.

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