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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Japan tries—again—to revitalize its research

Followed and visited Japan during the first AI wave, was impressed, but they did seen to take a downturn.  No clear enough way to integrate their Uni efforts?   Now emerging?  Next? A Solution?

Japan tries—again—to revitalize its research    in Science

Latest effort would spend billions on a few universities, but skeptics give it long odds

Alarmed by the declining stature of its universities, Japan is planning to shower up to $2.3 billion a year on a handful of schools in hopes of boosting their prominence. The scheme was approved by the Japanese legislature on 18 May, although many details, including how to pick the favored universities, are still up in the air. But the move, under study for more than a year, has rekindled a debate among academics over how to reverse Japan’s sinking research fortunes. Several previous schemes have yielded mixed results.

The new plan “aims to provide young promising scholars with the research environment that the world’s top universities are supposed to offer, to dramatically enhance international collaborations, and to promote the brain circulation both domestically and internationally,” says Takahiro Ueyama, a science policy specialist on the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI), Japan’s highest science advisory body, which was heavily involved in crafting the scheme.

But Guojun Sheng, a Chinese developmental biologist at Kumamoto University in Japan, is skeptical. “I am not very optimistic that this [plan] will do much to curb the slide in the ranking of Japanese research activities or international competitiveness,” he says. Sheng, who previously studied and worked in China, the United States, and the United Kingdom, says the new plan does not address fundamental problems at Japanese research institutes: too few women and foreign scientists, a fear of change, and lack of support for young scientists. To get better results, “Japan has to change its research culture,” he says.

Concerns over Japan’s fading scientific clout have been growing for years. The nation’s $167 billion in spending on R&D in 2020 was topped only by the United States and China, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). But research productivity “is markedly below [Group of 20 countries] average and citation impact is low,” Clarivate’s Institute for Scientific Information concluded in its 2021 annual report on G-20 research activities. An August 2021 analysis by Japan’s National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP) showed that Japan ranked fourth in its share of papers in the top 10% by number of citations from 1997 through 1999, then dropped to fifth between 2007 and 2009 and to 10th in 2017 to 2019 (see graphic). The drop is partly the result of the spectacular rise of China, which was not even in the top 10 in the 1990s and is now at first place. But Canada, France, Italy Australia, and India surpassed Japan as well.  ... ' 

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