Research Ethics

Afis-icub-2702-v2“Research Ethics and the University in the 21st Century”
Research Seminar organized by IRH-UB in collaboration with the Center for Applied Ethics, University of Bucharest
February 27, 2015: Shunzo Majima (Hokkaido University), “Research Ethics in the Japanese Context”
Presentation: 2014 was a remarkable year for research ethics and research misconduct in Japan. Dr Haruko Obokata, a researcher at RIKEN, one of the most prestigious research institutes in the country, published two papers as a first-author on STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) cells in Nature. The alleged success of the STAP method of generating pluripotent stem cells was considered to be a breakthrough in stem cell research for regenerative medicine. However, there were suspicions on the results which Dr Obokata claimed in the papers, since no other researchers succeeded in producing STAP cells. In April, RIKEN’s investigation task force found misconduct in Dr Obokata’s two papers, and both were retracted in July. After retracting the papers, Dr. Obokata was involved at RIKEN in a series of experiments aimed at reproducing STAP cells. The experiments never succeeded and ended in December. In the meantime, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan issued a series of directives on research ethics. Among those, a revised guideline on research misconduct issued in August 2014 is aimed at overhauling research ethics education. Currently the ministry plans to set up a Japanese version of the Office of Research Integrity. In this lecture, I will overview a national approach towards research ethics in Japan. I will also introduce governance on research ethics at Hokkaido University as a case study.