Hijacking the Policy-Making Process: Political Effects of the International Fertility Decision-Making Study for 2010s' Japan (XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology, July 2018, Toronto) (manuscript)
Author: Tanaka Sigeto (Tohoku University)
Studies that compare social conditions in a certain country with those of other nations can result in national feelings of inferiority or superiority. Comparative studies thus often serve as political devices. Owing to the development of the Internet and translation technology, large-scale, cross-national surveys have become a low-cost means to manipulate public opinion.
In this paper, I introduce the case of the political use of the International Fertility Decision-Making Study (IFDMS) in Japan. IFDMS was conducted in 2009-2010 by researchers from Cardiff University and Merck Serono, a global pharmaceutical company. IFDMS prepared a questionnaire in 13 languages for 18 countries, targeted at both men and women who were trying to conceive. It featured questions regarding medical knowledge about pregnancy. According to the published results, the respondents who lived in Japan exhibited a lower level of knowledge about conception than those in other countries. Based on this result, medical authorities in Japan insisted that, because of the lack of knowledge, the Japanese people had thoughtlessly postponed childbirth, resulting in fertility decline. The government accordingly created a new outline of population policy in 2015, in which it referred the results from IFDMS to advocate sex education for youth in order to encourage early marriage.
However, IFDMS is unreliable. It has many defects including mistranslations in the questionnaire. Nevertheless, results from IFDMS were accepted as reliable scientific findings in conferences and journals in the field of natural sciences in Europe, bypassing scrutiny by social science researchers in the targeted countries. Language differences also prevented the accurate understanding of the research results. The case of the political effect of IFDMS thus teaches us that social impacts of comparative studies may be deceptive and nullify social scientific efforts to accurately perceive the society in which we live. (See http://tsigeto.info/misconduct/#ifdms for details.)
Keywords: cross-national survey, translation, science communication
Conference: XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology (July 2018, Toronto)
Session Selection: Current Research in Comparative Sociology, Part 1 (RC20: Comparative Sociology)
Status: Accepted as a distributed paper [2017-11-30]
Revised: 2017-11-30 on paper acceptance.
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