Annual Meeting Reports

Educational Strategies in Publications Ethics for Asian Authors

Donald Samulack started this session with his “Tips and Strategies: Observations from the Field”. Publication ethics is a popular topic in China: workshops that require a fee may attract hundreds of attendees, and free events, thousands. Publication ethics is also a popular topic in Japan but less so in South Korea, where researchers are more interested in manuscript preparation and career-strategy workshops. In Japan and South Korea, Western-style topics are popular. In contrast, workshop attendees in China want everything to relate to China and prefer topics presented with a “Western sense in a Chinese way”.

For hands-on training, Samulack said that it is crucial to set clear expectations (for example, the event will be a 2-hour lecture in English). A website with an overview of the topic and information on how to contact the speakers afterward for followup is necessary. Written material should be in simple English and include graphic elements, such as images, tables, and callout boxes for ease of comprehension. Presenters should speak and change their slides slowly. Seniority governs personal interactions, especially in Japan, and junior-level researchers are often reluctant to speak up in front of their senior colleagues. Group activities work well in Japan, whereas one-on-one interactions work well in China and South Korea. Presenters should involve the senior researchers in the community; this will attract junior participants.

J Patrick Barron continued the session by explaining that English teaching in Japanese medical schools is in chaos. No two schools have the same criteria. Teachers usually have no background in the health sciences, and even when they happen to be native English speakers, they are often unwilling to handle material in medical science because of their lack of a medical background. A compulsory standard education course in English for Medical Purposes (EMP) for students and language teachers would be extremely helpful.

In Japan, few schools teach publication ethics. The few medical societies that have attempted writing and ethical guidelines in Japanese have not succeeded in producing clear guidelines, so most societies are unaware of how to handle ethical problems, although they are aware of their existence. Western editing services might consider educating their Asian authors about manuscript preparation and publication ethics. There is a strong interest in Asia in these topics and an urgent need for a rapid increase in the quantity and quality of ethics education.

Jing Duan then gave her presentation, “Publication Ethics in China: Issues, Causes, and Solutions”. She explained that there are almost no courses for Chinese students to learn ethics and few opportunities for students to be taught by advisers and colleagues. Existing materials on ethical issues and publication practices are all written in English, so it is hard for Chinese researchers to read and understand ethical policies. Authors do not want to copy other papers verbatim, but they lack the English skills to synthesize the material and then explain it in their own words or perhaps to understand when a citation is in order, so they risk plagiarism.

To avoid lapses in publication ethics, Western publishers should clarify what is expected of authors, and printed materials should be available in Chinese. More Western experts are needed to train Chinese authors in publication ethics. If possible, publishers should set up web pages in Chinese to explain their publication requirements, and ideally representatives from Western publishers would visit China to develop relationships with Chinese authors and learn more about their needs.

In summary, Asian authors are eager for information on how to follow ethical publication practices in accordance with Western publication standards. Some ethical lapses are caused by ignorance because the authors do not receive the necessary education in the English language and publication ethics in their native countries. Efforts to provide educational opportunities for Asian authors are likely to be warmly received, and Western publishers should take advantage of this eagerness and help their Asian authors to improve their contributions to scholarly journals.