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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

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


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).

Posted in: Writing | 0 comments

Message to the Editing Community group

By Research Cooperative, 2016-12-18

Dear Members of the Editing Community group of the Research Cooperative,

The ability to find or offer editing and other services in our social network depends entirely on members providing information in their public profile pages.

If you have not recently visited the Research Cooperative, you may need to request a new password. This can be done using the email address that you have registered with (i.e. the address with which this message has been sent to you).

Most of the data in a public profile is optional, but the more information you can provide, the easier it will be for other members to find your profile and the editing services that are offered or needed.

You can test this yourself by going to the search page for all members of the Research Cooperative, and using the search field to look for other members. After adding your own profile data, you can use this page to test whether your profile is in fact visible when relevant keywords are used to search the network.

Peter Matthews (Admin., Kyoto)

Today, as Admin, I changed a setting for Regular Members that determines which page existing members see first after login.

The options  for the Login Redirect Page are: own profile page, a site index page, or the URL to any page in the network.

I have set this to the URL to the Services forum page, which reprresents the core function of our network - a place where members can make offers or requests for services related to research writing and academic, educational or scientific communication generally.

The Signup Redirect Page remains unchanged: own profile page.

This is important because the first useful thing a new member can do is to provide information about themselves for the Admin to see (under the Account settings tab of the profile page) and for other members and site visitors to see (under the Profile settings tab of the profile page).

Adding public profile data with the Profile settings allows other members to find you, and any services you may be offering or needing, and also allows you to find other members who have also provided public information. Having a public profile is the first step needed to build a useful personal network and working relationships.

Account and Profile data can be updated at any time after login, by going to your profile page using the menu tab with your profile name (in the site main menu).


Publishers I like

By Research Cooperative, 2016-12-12

Greenleaf - a specialist publisher in Sustainability, Governance, Environmental Management and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Posted in: Publishing | 0 comments

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.

Posted in: Conferences | 0 comments

One trope that fits all?

By Research Cooperative, 2016-10-25

Lately I have been playing with different possible short phrases with which to summarise the aims of the Research Cooperative, in the title position of our home page.

Recently, under the logo image and text, I posted the words:

exploration, knowledge, wisdom

All very fine words, and relevant, but somehow pompous and vague at the same time. They do not explain the network concretely.

So then I changed to this for a few hours:

for better communication (any science, language, audience)

This errs too far in the opposite direction: too much information will dilute the impact, or make it disappear entirely.

So for now, I have settled on just the single phrase

for better communication

This refers not just to the better communication of science, but also to better communication between all participants in the ecosystem of science communication... which extends in many directions (academia, industry, public education, specialist audiences, general audiences, etc.).

If anyone has further ideas, please comment!

We can change the wording again, and perhaps rotate various tropes that describe what we are doing, or are trying to do, with the Research Cooperative. One trope can never describe all aims, or satisfy all members in a large group.

Spaceship Earth - a 50th Anniversary

By Research Cooperative, 2016-04-10

In 1966, the London-based political scientist Barbara Ward published a book titledSpaceship Earth (Columbia University Press: New York, 152 pp.).

She wrote at a time when the revolutionary impacts of computers and global communication were becoming evident.

Now, 50 years later, her ideas seem prescient.

"...the process of change is accelerating. Technology and science have become the common mode of human living and are invading every human institution and activity."

"...Today, suddenly, the experience of the human race is much more like that of being put in a barrel and sent over Niagara Falls."

"...This extension of all our senses by electronic means of communication creates a world awareness of what is going on in our planetary society, and this is bound to become a new factor in the pressures at work in world politics."

It seems we are still in the falling barrel.

The fact that we can make a phone call from inside the barrel has not changed the fact that it is falling.

I am not far into the book yet, but look forward to reading it all.

The chapter titles are:

1. "A New History"

2. The Balance of Power

3. The Balance of Wealth

4. The Balance of Ideology


Concrete Elephants of the Upper Mekong

28th Jan 2016

(author's sketch)

Posted in: Books | 0 comments
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