ERA Guiding Philosophies

ERA Guiding Philosophies

From its inception ERA has embraced a set of guiding philosophies and values that guide the authors, editors and the editorial board.

People come before science. The journal is primarily based on science. Most of its authors are scientists. If there is any conflict between culture and science, it is important that culture win. People are always more important than science. However, rational thinking usually leads one to see that the two are not in conflict but are harmonious. This assumes that the science is well done and the culture is well understood. If there is a conflict, it is best to look carefully at the quality of the science and our knowledge of the culture. The journal should be an open forum that creates a better understanding of both science and culture.

Exceed ethical standards. Scientific societies, governments and organizations set minimal standards that must be followed. Our policy is to exceed these standards when ever possible. Standards should be seen as opportunities, not as constraints. A researcher is on the path to truly understand the role of ethics when ethical standards are seen as a way to free relationships and create new opportunities. Material in the journal must recognize and promote high ethical practices.

Biocultural diversity must be saved. We must adhere to the true spirit of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Maintaining biocultural diversity is not a simple matter of following laws and treaties. Researchers and cultural practitioners should be guided by high standards not minimal standards. Promoting biocultural diversity should be easy and not a burden. Reports in the journal should reflect this attitude.

Traditional knowledge-keepers are the true guardians of traditional knowledge. Just as scientific knowledge is best evaluated and managed by scientists, so, traditional knowledge is best evaluated and managed by traditional knowledge keepers. The collection of information and its reporting must reflect a respect for the rights of the true guardians of knowledge.

Good science is based on well established procedures that lead to theories. Science is not facts. Science is a system that starts with clear reasoning that generates testable hypotheses. It is grounded in the use of reproducible methods to gather and analyze data. The goal of this system is to test existing theories and to produce new theories. Stopping short of this goal is, at best, an inefficient use of resources and a waste of time. The journal is fundamentally based on promoting good science.

There are many legitimate forms of cultural expression. Traditional knowledge may be illustrated in many different ways using an electronic (i.e., digital) medium. Doing so opens the possibility that this knowledge may be shared through the Internet. The forms include art, video, poetry, prose, and photography. Creativity should be encouraged. New solutions should be sought for additional ways to distribute cultural expressions of traditional knowledge. The journal should be an active participant in the practice of using many media and the quest to improve the use of media.

Freedom of information comes through sharing. Free access to information is not a matter of "taking." It is equally a matter of giving. There are many ways to participate in the "giving" aspects of the process. For some this means writing. For others this means editing. Some will contribute resources. Others will provide evaluative reviews. Each form of participation is necessary and none is more or less important than another. The journal depends on this wide variety of participation.

It is important to repatriate knowledge and re-empower communities of knowledge holders. Too often, traditional knowledge has been stripped away from communities as a result of colonial activities. Scholars should use opportunities to return knowledge to communities. Together, we must find ways to free the voices that have not been allowed to speak. The journal must acknowledge this historical failure and seek ways to repay the debt owed to impacted communities.

Knowledge and language are inseparable. Knowledge is contained, organized and structured within languages (and cultural, biological, and environmental contexts). Knowledge changes when it is taken from one language into another. Whenever possible knowledge should be maintained in the language and cultural and biological environment in which it was developed. Publication of knowledge in its original language may help to prevent knowledge erosion.

The journal must provide a universally comfortable environment. The journal must be open and welcoming to both cultural practitioners and scientific scholars. Both must feel mutual acceptance as they publish alongside each other. This is a difficult balance as the two constituencies do not normally distribute work together. Every person, what ever their background, must demonstrate mutual respect and value the knowledge of every other person. This attitude must be reflected in publications.

Ethnobotanists bring an understanding of sustainability. All ethnobotanists should be familiar with sustainability concepts and practices. These are important in a host of contexts, such as language, culture, and ecology. Sustainability also extends to the ways that we obtain and disseminate scientific information. The structure and long-term operation of the journal depends on periodic re-evaluation of its sustainability. The maintenance of a healthy and vigorous scientific community is equally dependent on such evaluations.