Ethics in research: follow-up 3

I can fully appreciate the reluctance of Japanese students being unwilling to respond to research participant requests. The collective nature of the Japanese society produces responses ranging from outright ignoring the requests to being offended when those outside of the in-group approach them; the Japanese collectivist in-group bias is well-known (Yamagishi, Jin, & Miller, 1998). However, you ask about ethical concerns I may have in my own EdD research. That, unfortunately, is either a very easy question to answer, or an impossibly difficult one.

The easy answer is that I do not need to consider ethics at the institutional level at all. I can simply carry out any research I wish within the boundaries of non-physically invasive social research and if I stay within what amount to simple guidelines of not abusing funds, avoiding mistreatment of graduate research students, not being bribed and not falsifying data (MacFarlane & Saitoh, 2008). The most recent guidelines from the Science Research Council of Japan (Science Council of Japan (SCJ), 2013) offer little more, and it is well-established that Japan’s attitudes to ethics in research is markedly much more lackadaisical than that in the west (Akabayashi & Slingsby, 2003; Fukushi, Sakura, & Koizumi, 2007;MacFarlane & Saitoh, 2008).

The more complex answer must necessarily be a contingent one at this stage as I have not yet decided on the methodology for my final thesis. One concern does strike me as a potential worry, though. My Japanese language skills are sufficient for me to conduct, for example, a phenomenological study in terms of data collection. However, I do not have the confidence that I would be able to interpret that data in a sufficiently culturally sensitive way. I suspect that I would have to be extremely careful in the selection of the base theoretical frameworks I use before employing them on the data. This, I’m not confident about.

Thank you for your probing question. If you have any advice, I’d be delighted to hear it.


Akabayashi, A., & Slingsby, B. T. (2003). Biomedical ethics in Japan: the second stage. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 12, 261–264.doi:10.1017/S0963180103123079

Fukushi, T., Sakura, O., & Koizumi, H. (2007). Ethical considerations of neuroscience research: The perspectives on neuroethics in Japan.Neuroscience Research, 57, 10–16. doi:10.1016/j.neures.2006.09.004

MacFarlane, B., & Saitoh, Y. (2008). Research ethics in Japanese higher education: Faculty attitudes and cultural mediation. Journal of Academic Ethics, 6(3), 181–195. doi:10.1007/s10805-008-9065-9

Science Council of Japan (SCJ). (2013). Statement: Code of Conduct for Scientists –Revised Version. Retrieved on July 4 2016 from

Yamagishi, T., Jin, N., & Miller, A. S. (1998). In-group Bias and Culture of Collectivism. Asian Journal Of Social Psychology, 1(3), 315–328.doi:10.1111/1467-839X.00020

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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