39.8 Researcher's ethics in multi-authorship papers in natural sciences at Japanese universities: The intersection of harassment and scientific misconduct

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 10:10 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Yayoi YUKAWA , Japan Society for the Promotion of Science;Hiroshima University, Tokyo, Japan
Chisato KITANAKA , Harassment Consultation Room, Hiroshima University , Hiroshima, Japan
Mieko YOKOYAMA , Harassment Consultation Room, Hiroshima University , Hiroshima, Japan
This paper examines professional ethics regarding authorship in writing multi-authored papers in natural sciences at Japanese universities. In order for universities to take initiatives to promote professional ethics in society, we believe it imperative to discuss misconduct within universities. By focusing on authorship, we explore how Japanese researchers understand research ethics.

     As to the violation of Uniform Requirement by International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, known as a global criteria of authorship ethics in many natural sciences fields, two points are especially noticed: “gift authorship” (people indicated as authors, often senior researchers, do not actually contribute to the work) and “ghost authorship” (people, often students or researchers in lower position, are not properly represented in the paper even though they make essential contributions). We also note the recent complaints by junior researchers about these violations, which are claimed as ”harassment with power differences”.

     Our survey of researchers in natural sciences at 15 top Japanese universities as well as intensive interviews show that few researchers(14.1%) actually meet the global criteria of the proper authorship, and about half think that the violation might be condoned. The data is analyzed with particular local contexts being taken into consideration. Traditional Japanese universities consist of  small pyramid-like units where the “boss professor” has strong power over subordinates. Also, researchers are expected to learn how to write research papers only through situational learning within each unit, rather than through systematic education.

     Thus, we argue that most natural science researchers in Japan are either confused about or struggled with the situation where strict global criteria conflict with local peculiar cultures which often condone gift/ghost authorships. Those who are already socialized in the local cultures take unethical authorships for granted, while others view it as the intersection of harassment and misconduct.