Authorship practices in multi-authored papers in the natural sciences at Japanese universities

Yayoi Yukawa, Chisato Kitanaka, Mieko Yokoyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the practices of natural science researchers and the recognition authors receive in multi-authored papers at Japanese universities. The "Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals: Writing and Editing for Biomedical Publication" by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, which sets global standards for authorship ethics in many natural science fields, notes problems in two areas in particular: with "gift authors" (people who are indicated as authors, but who do not actually contribute to the work) and with "ghost authors" (people, often students or researchers in lower positions, who are not properly represented in the paper even though they make essential contributions to it). We also note the recent complaints by junior researchers about these violations, which are claimed to be harassment or bullying using power differences. Our survey of researchers in natural sciences at 15 top Japanese universities shows that, despite the different specialized fields, few researchers actually meet the gold standard of authorship criteria of proper authorship and about half think that their violation might be condoned. The data are analyzed taking into consideration a particular local context. Through the exploratory research above, we speculate that most natural science researchers in Japan may be either confused about or struggle with the situation where the strict global criteria conflict with specific local cultures that often condone gift and ghost authorships. Those who are already socialized in such local cultures take unethical authorships for granted, while others view it as an intersection of harassment and misconduct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-91
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Japanese Sociology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Mar
Externally publishedYes


  • Authorship practice
  • Harassment
  • Researchers' ethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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