Introducing the Research Cooperative... a quixotic attempt to change the culture of science communication

I am an ethnobotanist from NZ working at a multilingual anthropology research institution in Japan. While working in Japan I became conscious of the struggles that many scientists globally face when publishing in English as a second language. I personally struggle with English even as a native speaker, and cannot publish in Japanese without the help of translators and editors.

In 2001 envisaged creating a self-building online open database of people willing to help other people in return for help in kind or for payment…for editing, translation and any other work related to science communication. Initially I used a bulletin board, and then a Ning social network platform, and now the Jamroom social network platform. The Research Cooperative (researchcooperative.org) is now hosted on its own server at a cost of about US$50 per month, and has about 9,000 members… who unfortunately are largely inactive. Membership is free.

I still believe the Research Cooperative concept has value, and that with active participation and support the network could contribute to making it easier for researchers to publish in any language of their own choice. Discussion of mutual support in academic and scientific publishing is generally lacking. I suspect that many people find it difficult to ask for help or to explain what kind of help they need, and that collegial and institutional support for scientific communication is also generally lacking and inefficient.

The basic problem is not financial but cultural…in academic culture generally, and in all the different cultures where research is carried out. How can we promote an effective culture of mutual support, with volunteer and paid services, in the academic world? With mutual support, many of the financial barriers that make open science hard to achieve can be removed, side-stepped or reduced.

Comments and suggestions by members of this forum would be much appreciated.

Thanks for reading!

4 Likes

Briefly, it consists of a facilitator that bolsters diffusion of scientific ideas, probably it has almost the same requisites of other competitors (and our current editorial market is unable to absorb such a demand) that poorly work to make it appear as notable and/or trustworthy. Or it has a poor media coverage. But when it comes to money, we must abide by any pragmatic and realistic perspective.

Scientific communities enclose people with emotions and feelings similar to those of ordinary people, therefore sentiments like enviousness, ambition, frustration, anxiety, insecurity, empathy are crucial and determine whether an idea skyrockets to the top of the social acceptance. Alternatively, you need a core community made of “nerdiacs” (a fusion between nerd and maniac) who are obsessed by sharing their ideas and are eager to learn new things (but this needs you to conduct a chilling-out way of life).

It is not the idea per se that makes it capable of achieving its success, but it is the way it is promoted and “marketed” to end-users. Sometimes, it may depend on the historical period, as if we tried to imagine what it would have looked like the entry-to-market of Facebook during the '80s (with a totally different mentality at a cross-country level) instead of our current ones.

Try to figure out these points:

  1. some researchers/experts/scientists may not be interested in searching for a higher quality editorial service given that a friend of theirs may help them to publish and being cited, regardless of the intrinsic quality of what they did actually publish. If this is the case, there is no incentive to strive to seek for anything new;
  2. some of the smartest people in academia I have ever encountered in my life (i.e. those who I call “gifted geniuses”) who are not English mothertongue may not be comfortably accepted/understood by international communities only because their syntactic structures may remarkably differ from that of an English native. For instance, “Latin” mentality could appear as “baroque” to an average English native. If this is the case, the service you are attempting to advertise must be accredited to the local community you are meant to target (and the author prioritizes being accepted by the local community in place of a wider one);

and alia… This is not the end… but a draft of a deeper discussion on it…

1 Like

Thanks for posting @pjmatthews and welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

I recall seeing The Research Cooperative a few years ago and found my way back to it recently. It’s a great concept and a pity to see that it hasn’t gained more traction. I generally agree that there are few formal opportunities for mutual support in mainstream academia, and I assume that this is largely because of the competitive nature of most fields (acknowledgments don’t count for much…). I think there is more openness to providing support among independent researchers, but it is certainly not the norm.

That said, I also agree with @Enrico_Gabriele that “some researchers/experts/scientists may not be interested in searching for a higher quality editorial service given that a friend of theirs may help them to publish and being cited”. A lot of the support activities I have seen in academia tend to be ‘local’ (in the lab group or with former colleagues, maybe up to departmental level), and when researchers do go beyond that, I think they often look to professional firms like Enago or Cactus (at least for editing in English) rather than finding ways to connect with freelance researchers. www.authoraid.info is one example of a researcher network supporting scientific communication that seems fairly successful and may be worth looking into.

@carlsalk is a researcher who provides translation and editing services directly to other researchers, maybe you have some thoughts?

At IGDORE, we are planning to experiment with peer support groups for affiliates. This is tentatively starting out with peer support for incoming and funding for independent research, and will hopefully expand to open science later on. There is a lot more experience and knowledge in the IGDORE community than IGDORE administration has itself, and so it would be better to a group where peer support can be reliably obtained rather than having everybody come to us. But most initiatives are started by the IGDORE board and tend to lose momentum without our active involvement. I suspect that having a dedicated community manager would help (see www.cscce.org), but we don’t have the resources for that yet.

3 Likes

Hi Gavin- Thanks for mentioning me here. I offer proofreading and copyediting services, and occasionally also translation (Swedish, Spanish or Portuguese → English), on a freelance basis. I try to limit this work to disciplines I have some experience in (ecology, environmental science and forestry, including both their natural and social science aspects), so unlike the big editing service companies, I am much less likely to make a mess of your paper because I don’t understand the terminology. As part of the process, I also give some feedback on scientific aspects of the work that I think reviewers are likely to complain about. I mostly work for people I already know, or friends of friends. This is because the work I do involves mutual trust - trust that I will bill fairly (I charge by time rather than by word, so manuscripts that are already in good shape will cost less), and trust that my clients will pay their bills as I don’t have a big accounting department behind me. I encourage scientists to work with freelancers when they need editing help since editors working through the big companies typically receive only a tiny fraction of the fee paid - I estimate I got only 15% of what authors paid for editing when I worked for one of them many years ago. Also, if you look at the price structure of certain big editing companies, their basic services are now priced so low that they are pretty obviously just an AI cleanup of your work. If anyone would like free advice in setting up your own editing service, I’m happy to talk to you about that.

2 Likes