Hijacking the Policy-Making Process

- political effects of the International Fertility Decision-Making Study for 2010s' Japan
TANAKA Sigeto <http://tsigeto.info/18x>
(Tohoku University)
XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology (2018-07-16)

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SocArXiv DOI: 10.31235/osf.io/ndrcm
Blog article: http://b.tsigeto.info/343




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.


1 Nationalism and International Comparison

2 Background: The "Egg Aging" Propaganda in 2010s Japan


4 Defects of the IFDMS

5 Key Actors in Disseminating the IFDMS Results

6 Rhetoric to Arouse Public Attention

7 Border Segmentation to Avoid Scrutiny

8 Translations to Conceal the Defects

9 Lessons from the Case of the Misuse of the IFDMS Results



Some findings in this paper come from my activities in the activist group “高校保健副教材の使用中止・回収を求める会” (http://fukukyozai.jimdo.com) . I extend my thanks to the members of the group for their cooperation. This paper includes research results from the project “非科学的知識の生産・流通と「卵子の老化」パニック” (Unscientific knowledge and the “egg aging” panic) funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (KAKENHI #17K02069) for 2017-2019. See http://tsigeto.info/egg/ for the project.


Figure 1. Mean Cardiff Fertility Knowledge Scale scores by country and sex according to the IFDMS

Source: Saito (2014), a document prepared for a governmental conference in 2014. See http://www8.cao.go.jp/shoushi/shoushika/meeting/taikou/. Japanese texts are added by Saito Hidekazu (English translations are mine).

Figure 2. The page on Cardiff University website redirected from www.starting.families.org

http://www.startingfamilies.org was redirected as follows (retrieved 2016-01-17)


Figure 3. The top page of www.startingfamilies.com recorded by The Internet Archive



Questions/comments are welcome.

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