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For reproducibility I see the use of mentioning the equipment type, version number and manufacturer. But in the internet age it seems unnecessary to me to mention the town and country of an equipment manufacturer in the methods section of an academic paper.

In my opinion it was probably useful when you needed a phone book to look up the company details. Nowadays, I think these details make the papers less readable because they break the flow of the text.

However, my PI and some coworkers always want me to add this information without giving a reason why. (If they give reasons they are: "the journal wants it" [not true], or "everybody does it this way" [bad reason])

Is there any good reason to add the town/country that I did not think of?

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  • 2
    Which field? I surely mention neither the town nor the country of an equipment manufacturer, just the manufacturer and the model number (not even the version number).
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Oct 31 '16 at 11:21
  • 2
    Could it not just be a historical thing? If you go back to a pre-WWW time, where perhaps there were many more small, local, manufacturers then it would make sense to specify the location of the manufacturer. Is this a reason to continue to do it? Perhaps not, but I can't imagine it's the only practice that we persist with despite the reason that necessitated it ceasing to be the case
    – Ian_Fin
    Oct 31 '16 at 11:31
  • 7
    As an alternative, baseless, speculation. Perhaps its for manufacturers who have factories in different locations? The (quite unrelated) example that springs to mind is Fender, who manufacture guitars in America, Japan and Mexico, with consensus suggesting that the quality of the product decreasing as you move across the locations. If I was buying a Stratocaster I may well want to know which factory it was made in.
    – Ian_Fin
    Oct 31 '16 at 11:32
  • 3
    Perhaps this is similar to including the town and country where books were published when you put them in your bibliography.
    – GEdgar
    Oct 31 '16 at 12:46
  • 3
    Great question - I've often seen this and thought that it seems somewhat archaic. It's even used for software such as 'Matlab, Mathworks Inc., Natick, MA' (random example) which seems even more unnecessary to me.
    – zelanix
    Oct 31 '16 at 14:28
29

I think this is especially common in the medical literature. The objective, as you said, is to make sure readers can find the exact same product you used to get the full picture and for the purpose of evaluating or reproducing your work.

Even in the "Internet age", there are many reasons why one might need the physical location of a manufacturer in order to access their products. Here are a few that come to my mind:

  • Many companies are not easy to locate with a google search and I know several that don't have a public website or any sort of web presence at all. It might feel silly to write "we used Gmail (Google, Mountain View, California)" but there are many businesses that are not as publicly known. If you're looking in an online phone book you still need to know where to look for.
  • Companies might have many subsidiaries and divisions that could be developing products and prototypes without the other ones necessarily knowing about it, especially prototypes. Contacting the wrong one might lead to a dead end.
  • Due to different regulations (and that is especially true for drugs and medical equipment) it can be that the same company is selling different products depending on the location. The exact composition of a drug or the firmware might differ depending on where the products were sold.
  • It actually sometimes happens that two completely unrelated companies providing the same type of services or goods that are active in separate countries have the exact same name. Confusing, I know.
  • Companies disappear, get bought, change name, etc. Knowing the location at time t might help locate the new entity that could deliver the product.

This being said "the journal wants it" is a valid argument, if it's effectively the case and "everybody does it this way" is not that bad of a reason when it comes to article structure and writing practices. Be creative on the content, not on the form. I personally don't feel brackets with (Nvidia Corporation) "break the flow" less than (Nvidia Corporation, Santa Clara, California).

Plus it brings back good memories of time spent in California.

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  • 4
    California is not a country! Oct 31 '16 at 16:17
  • 2
    I would elaborate the "everybody does it this way" point to note that if it's so ubiquitous, it becomes an expectation among reviewers that can count against a paper if omitted, even if it doesn't actually weaken the paper in a substantive way. Oct 31 '16 at 16:43
  • 5
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit yet.
    – hobbs
    Oct 31 '16 at 18:30
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit anymore.
    – Cape Code
    Oct 31 '16 at 18:31
  • +1 especially for "selling different products depending on location". This is something most people find surprising. Even things which are assumed to be "the same" such as branded food products (McDonalds chicken nuggets, Haribo gold bears) have different composition due to local tastes. But then there are differences nobody knows about - I once worked for a biologist whose PhD student's mice experiment failed at a stage which had worked with the same mouse strain in another country. Then they imported the pellets used in the original experiment and the problem disappeared.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 1 '16 at 12:10
8

I've always assumed that this is in case there are two different companies with the same name. The location of those companies will almost certainly remove any ambiguity.

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  • For rather obvious company names this is definitely possible, though trademark rules would normally mean that a country is sufficient to disambiguate.
    – Chris H
    Oct 31 '16 at 13:14
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    "trademark" are only within the same trade, so you can have two companies with the same name selling different items. It can take many phone calls to track down the correct company, so having the name of the town saves a lot of time.
    – Ian
    Oct 31 '16 at 13:44
  • @Ian yes, but the trade may be as broad as "medical devices" or even broader, thus probably obvious from the context
    – Chris H
    Nov 1 '16 at 10:32
  • @ChrisH, not to google when you are looking for the current contact information for a company.
    – Ian
    Nov 1 '16 at 10:34

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