Japan Launches Preprint Server – But Will Scientists Use It?

Japan’s output of published research is very high, but researchers do not often share their manuscripts on preprint servers.Credit: Makiko Tanigawa/Getty

Japan is the latest country to open an online preprint repository to increase the international exposure of the country’s research. But so far, researchers have not rushed to post on Jxiv – fewer than 40 articles have been uploaded since it launched in March – and some researchers say the platform isn’t necessary.

However, Jxiv’s supporters believe the platform will gain popularity, with some suggesting researchers will warm to it because of its government backing. “If the government hosts this, it will stay safe,” says Guojun Sheng, an embryologist at Kumamoto University in Japan.

Japan’s output of published research is among the highest in the world. But researchers in Japan don’t often share early versions of their manuscripts on preprint servers, says Soichi Kubota, who works in the information infrastructure department of the state-run Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) in Tokyo.

Kubota says the JST wants to change that. It set up Jxiv to fill a gap in existing platforms that don’t cover all research areas – including popular ones in Japan, such as history, economics and management, linguistics, and interdisciplinary sciences. In these areas, there are a large number of articles published in Japanese. Researchers can publish manuscripts on Jxiv in English and Japanese.

India, Russia, China, Indonesia and Africa have their own dedicated repositories. Similar services hosting research conducted in France and the Arab world were shut down in 2020. Some of the most popular repositories are subject-specific, such as the original preprint server arXiv for science and mathematics manuscripts.

Ongoing Benefits

A long-standing criticism of preprint servers is that there is no process to weed out low-quality research, as articles are published without standard editing or peer review.

Kubota acknowledges that some low-quality preprints are posted on preprint servers, but he argues that the advantages of a Japanese preprint server outweigh any disadvantages. The platform can help bring Japanese scholarship to a wider international audience as manuscripts are free to read. And he hopes the Jxiv will encourage collaboration between Japanese scientists and international colleagues.

Kubota points out that researchers often publish early manuscripts to preprint servers to gather comments from colleagues, which serves as an informal peer review before submitting the manuscript to a journal. This process can also reduce the workload of journal peer reviewers, he says.

But Thomas Russell, a polymer scientist with joint appointments at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Tohoku University in Sendai, worries that encouraging researchers in Japan to use preprint servers would mean their manuscripts aren’t adequately reviewed online will. “I think the Japanese are more reserved than Western cultures” when it comes to expressing criticism in a public forum, he says.

Russell believes that preprint servers are not necessary to disseminate research quickly. “If it’s good science, it will go through the review process and come out quickly,” he says.

But Sheng believes Jxiv will catch on, especially if funding agencies start requiring researchers whose work they fund to use it in the future.

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