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
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
By Research Cooperative, 2022-07-30
It is hard to imagine that James Lovelock, of all people, has passed away at the age of 103 (26th July 2022). He seemed to be eternal. Yet I doubt that he had any problem with the idea of his own mortality, despite his refusal to retire, and all his efforts to extend life on Earth. From reading about his ideas and his role in science history, he appears to have been an optimist, pessimist, idealist and realist all in one.
Helena Horton, writing for the Guardian on 27th July 2022, provides an informative short obituary, and notes:
"His Gaia hypothesis posits that life on Earth is a self-regulating community of organisms interacting with each other and their surroundings."
She then quotes Jonathan Watts (global environment editor at the Guardian). Watts knew Lovelock well and is writing a biography. The following statements are from Watts:
“Without Lovelock, environmental movements across the globe would have started later and taken a very different path.
In the 1960s his ultrasensitive electron capture detector revealed for the first time how toxic chemicals were creeping into the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil where we grow our food.
He was the first to confirm the presence of fluorocarbons in the stratosphere and issued one of the earliest warnings that petroleum products were destabilising the climate and damaging the brains of children.
He also warned, in clearer terms than any of his peers, of the dangers humanity posed to the extraordinary web of relations that make Earth uniquely alive in our universe.”
A long Wikipedia article dives deeper into various scientific controversies that Lovelock helped to energise.
His own views changed over time, doubtless because he lived long enough to see whether actual trends matched his own predictions.
Lovelock was conscious of having been alarmist in his popular writings, but remained alarmed. Current climate trends, and an ever-expanding range of empirical observations (in the physical, biological and agricultural sciences) give us every reason to be alarmed.
Panic will not be helpful: we need to be clear-thinking and alert to opportunities for positive action.
(Images: Gaia & Melting Ice, Vectorstock, 2022)
By Research Cooperative, 2022-06-29
Stephen Buryani, writing in The Guardian (full report) (Tue 27 Jun 2017 06.00 BST), asks: " Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?"
His report is an extended expose of profiteering by the private corporations that control scientific publishing, yet the answer is ambiguous. The silent question raised is: "What would have happened if private companies had not led expansion and innovation in scientific publishing, over the last 100 years?"
The following quotations are from near the beginning of this brilliant, surprising, and enlightening report. I strongly urge all members of our network to read the original if they can.
Quotes, courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd:
"In 2010, Elsevier’s scientific publishing arm reported profits of £724m on just over £2bn in revenue. It was a 36% margin – higher than Apple, Google, or Amazon posted that year."
"...scientific publishers manage to duck most of the actual costs. Scientists create work under their own direction – funded largely by governments – and give it to publishers for free; the publisher pays scientific editors who judge whether the work is worth publishing and check its grammar, but the bulk of the editorial burden – checking the scientific validity and evaluating the experiments, a process known as peer review – is done by working scientists on a volunteer basis. The publishers then sell the product back to government-funded institutional and university libraries, to be read by scientists – who, in a collective sense, created the product in the first place."
"A 2005 Deutsche Bank report referred to it as a “bizarre” “triple-pay” system, in which “the state funds most research, pays the salaries of most of those checking the quality of research, and then buys most of the published product”."
"Even scientists who are fighting for reform are often not aware of the roots of the system: how, in the boom years after the second world war, entrepreneurs built fortunes by taking publishing out of the hands of scientists and expanding the business on a previously unimaginable scale."
[Note: 223 words are quoted here. Under the terms of an Open License , the Guardian permits up to 500 words to be quoted with attribution, in blogs such as this. Sincere thanks to Guardian News & Media for these generous terms! (PJM)]
By Research Cooperative, 2022-04-07
Michael Wood (1996) The Smile of the Murugan: A South Indian Journal. Penguin Books: London, pp. 247.
Non-fiction. I found this book being given away by a recently-retired, museum staff member who has been clearing out his office. As a specialist on Indian culture, he had many good books about India. This was an excellent account of journeys taken by a former BBC journalist and film-maker over many years. It has many dimensions, as travelogue, as ethnography, and as remembrance of a long friendship with one family in Chidambaram, a small city in Tamil Nadu state. I enjoyed his attention to the sweaty details of landscape, climate, physical decay, biological regeneration, and the living conditions endured and enjoyed by people he lived and traveled with. The book is also about religion, human spirit, our attachments to history and tradition, and the allure of modernity.
John Berendt (2006) The City of Falling Angels. Penguin Books: London, 420 pp.
Non-fiction. A wonderful social history of modern Venice, based on the author's experiences and investigations in the city over many years. The author made patient efforts to meet many different kinds of people, and gain diverse perspectives on many aspects of city life and history. I admire his ability to follow many threads of study and bring them all together. Despite taking up some (locally) very controversial topics, he is able to state at the beginning: "All the people in [this book] are real, and are identified by their real names. There are no composite characters".
Geerat Vermeij (1997) Privileged Hands: A Remarkable Scientific Life. W. H. Freeman and Company: New York.
Non-fiction. The author is a biologist who became blind in childhood, in the Netherlands. After migrating to the USA with his family, at a young age, he became fascinated with seashells, ecology, palaeobiology, and the evolution of molluscs. His vivid descriptions of field work in many different countries transported me far from Kyoto at a time when travel for my own fieldwork has been greatly limited. I enjoyed this beautifully written book as much for the author's personal story as for the broad view of 20th century biology and evolutionary theory.
By Research Cooperative, 2022-01-20
There are many good expatriate writers in Japan.
Some are doing work unrelated to Japan in particular, others have chosen life in Japan as their main focus.
A good example of the latter is the "Cultivated Days" blog, here:
C. W. Nicol (1940-2020) was a pioneer of nature writing in Japan, and became dedicated to ecological education here, establishing an organisation that carries on his work: Afan Forest Trust.
The site is entirely in Japanese, but Nicol published many articles in English in The Japan Times and elsewhere.
By Research Cooperative, 2021-12-19
Copy of an open letter to the Ronin Institute (19th December 2021)
To whom it may concern,
I am a New Zealander working at the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan. This is where I settled in 1996 after a few years of wandering as a post-doc and self-employed scholar. My experiences of working in Japan led me to create the Research Cooperative in 2001, and the network now has approx. 8,000 members who are largely silent and/or inactive. This is partly because I cannot engage full-time with Co-op members while also working full-time for my museum and my own research. See:
The Research Cooperative needs collaboration with like-minded organisations and individuals!
My goal is to make the network self-sustaining as I believe the Research Cooperative will always be needed and useful, if it can achieve the potential I see in it. By self-sustaining a mean in terms of both development of the network and financially.
If the network can become more active, then it might attract sponsorships and advertising revenue, or might be of sufficient value to members to attract subscription payments for specific extra services. For example, professional editing or translation companies might be willing to offer discounts to subscribing members.
The Research Cooperative is a network where novices and professionals involved in all aspects of science communication can gather for mutual benefit.
Is collaboration between Ronin Institute and the Research Cooperative possible? At a minimum this could be a matter of cross-linking and cross-promotion.
Best regards, Peter
By Research Cooperative, 2021-04-08
Codes of conduct, research ethics and integrity... there are many ways to label the subject, but the overall goal is to make science a positive approach to understanding the world and guiding human activities. Science and knowledge can be powerful, anything that is powerful can do much that is good, and much that is not, however "good" is defined.
The actual details that need to be considered by any individual person or organisation depend on context: who is doing the work, who else is involved, the topic of study, the place of study, the methods used, what kind of information is generated, how information is communicated, the ways in which information might be used, intended purposes and possible unintended consequences, and who or what will benefit, or might benefit, directly or indirectly, when, and where.
In this blog post I will gradually add links to a range of websites where codes of conduct and research ethics are discussed or provided. Seeing many different examples may help members of the Research Cooperative consider what is best practice in their own areas of activity, as researchers, students, editors, translators and so on. Codes of conduct are often developed by professional societies, academic societies, institutions. Some may be very broad in scope, others may be designed for specific disciplines or even for specific methods used within a discipline.
If you would like to discuss these matters with other members of our network, please see our topic focus group for Research Ethics and Integrity
Here is an example with very broad scope, published by ALLEA (European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities), which represents more than 50 academies in over 40 EU and non-EU countries. ALLEA aims to promote science as a global public good, and facilitate scientific collaboration across borders and disciplines: The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity
The Code was published in English on 24th March 2017, and was translated into all official EU languages. All versions can be accessed through the link above.
By Research Cooperative, 2021-04-08
Bill Gammage (2012) The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia. Allen & Unwin. 434 pp.
I started reading this in 2020, and finished a few weeks ago... a long slow read but one I savored, as the author gradually builds up a big picture of what Australia was and is. He describes life-ways and a philosophy of living that do not fit the narrow categories of "farming" or "hunting and gathering" commonly used to distinguish Eurasian agricultural societies from many of those that exist (or existed) in Africa, the Americas, and Australia. By showing what Australia was, the scale of loss that followed European colonisation is overwhelming, at an emotional level. Not all is lost though, as this book is also an attempt to help us learn from historical experience, imagine new possibilities, and seek new directions. The lessons here are not just for those who live in Australia, and not just for the descendants of European colonisers. We all belong to a modern industrial world in which it has become increasingly difficult to remain connected to land, and to care for it.
By Research Cooperative, 2021-02-21
Today I sent the following message to a new member:
"Thanks very much for joining. It would be great if you can offer your services in our service forums, and join the Image Workshop community page here:
What we really need is more active use of the network by members: activity promotes activity, inactivity promotes inactivity.
The network is unique in its focus on science communication, so there are interesting opportunities to have an impact for any members who do become active."
The last point explains why I continue to maintain the network despite the persistent lack of activity. I still believe in the potential to improve science communication through better communication among all those involved in writing and publishing research.
Perhaps it is little like the origins of life on potentially inhabitable planets: life can happen, but not necessarily so. There might be life on Mars, or there might not. Our network might come to life, or it might not. Perseverance is needed.
Photo: The Perseverance rover has landed. Photo courtesy NASA, 19th Feb. 2021: https://mars.nasa.gov/resources/25609/high-resolution-still-image-of-perseverances-landing/