Japan launches preprint server – but will scientists use it?

Japan launches preprint server – but will scientists use it?

Members of the research and development team at a laboratory in Japan.

Japanese production of published research papers is very high, but researchers do not often share their manuscripts on preprint servers.Credit: Makiko Tanigawa/Getty

Japan has become the latest country to open an online preprint repository, in a bid to boost the country’s international research exposure. But so far, researchers haven’t rushed to publish on Jxiv — less than 40 articles have been uploaded since its launch in March — and some researchers say the platform isn’t needed.

Jxiv supporters, however, believe the platform will grow in popularity, with some suggesting that researchers will take interest in it because it is government-backed. “If the government organizes this, then it will stay for sure,” says Guojun Sheng, an embryologist at Kumamoto University in Japan.

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

Kubota says the JST wants to change that. He created Jxiv to fill a void in existing platforms, which do not fit all research fields, including popular fields in Japan, such as history, business and management, linguistics and interdisciplinary sciences. A large number of articles published in Japanese relate to these areas. Researchers can publish manuscripts on Jxiv in both English and Japanese.

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

Ongoing Benefits

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

Kubota acknowledges that some low-quality preprints are published on preprint servers, but he says the benefits of a Japanese preprint server outweigh the disadvantages. The platform can help spread Japanese science to a wider international audience because the manuscripts are free to read. And he hopes the Jxiv will boost collaborations between Japanese scientists and international peers.

Kubota notes that researchers often post early manuscripts to preprint servers to gather feedback from their peers, which acts 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 jointly appointed to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Tohoku University in Sendai, fears that by encouraging Japanese researchers to use preprint servers, their manuscripts will attract not an adequate review online. “I think Japanese people are more reserved than Western cultures” when it comes to being critical in a public forum, he says.

Russell thinks preprint servers aren’t necessary to get research out quickly. “If it’s good science, it will go through the review process and come out quickly,” he says.

But Sheng thinks 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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