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Japan lags behind in sharing its coronavirus research

  • May 19, 2020
  • , Nikkei , p. 3
  • JMH Translation

The latest information on the new coronavirus is shared internationally through research papers. Usually, research papers are reviewed by other science experts before publication, but because of the urgent need for the information those papers provide, many are currently being published without waiting for peer reviews. The aim is to make them available to physicians so they can wisely select treatment methods and medications.


The U.S. and China outdistance other nations in publishing papers on new coronavirus research, according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP) under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). In their analysis, NISTEP grouped the research papers by country/region. By analyzing the WHO database on peer-reviewed research papers and others, NISTEP concluded that as of April 21, the largest number of papers, 1,158, has been published by China, followed by the U.S. Japan was 17th with 56 papers. As for papers published before peer review, China was again at the top (545 papers), while the U.S. published 411. Japan released 31 pre-reviewed papers, ranking 8th in the world.


Japan is slow to publish research because there is no established system for collecting and analyzing individual case data in the country.


Even before the pandemic, China had an infectious disease information system that was tasked to register every single case. In February, an analysis of 70,000 cases was released to the public, disclosing every patient’s age, gender, underlying health condition, and his/her risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19.


In Japan, the National Center for Global Health and Medicine just started operating a database in March to register all the coronavirus cases. Prior to that, data had been collected voluntarily by separate academic societies and medical institutions. The data collection process needs to be accelerated before the expected second wave of infections and beyond.

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