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Japan’s research capabilities steadily deteriorate

  • August 30, 2021
  • , Nikkei , p. 19
  • JMH Translation

By Matsuzoe Ryosuke


Japan is losing its global presence in the field of science and technology despite its claim to be a nation powered by high-tech fields. According to a report compiled by a research institute affiliated with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in early August, Japan dropped to 10th in the world after being outdone by India in an index of the influence and evaluation of scientific papers. Japan was ranked third in the world in terms of R&D costs and number of researchers. But costs and researcher numbers are showing little growth, preventing the nation from halting its long-term decline in R&D activities.    


Japan ranked 10th in number of “noteworthy” papers that are among the top 10% of the most cited papers in each research area. Researchers cite relevant papers as references when they write papers on their research results so the number of cited papers serves as an indicator of the paper’s evaluation, popularity, and impact on society and relevant research fields.   


By country, China overtook the U.S. for the first time in the number of noteworthy scientific papers, accounting for 24.8% of the total. The U.S. accounted for 22.9%, allowing the two countries to make up nearly 50% of the total. The U.K. and Germany fell far behind them at 5.4% and 4.5%, respectively. Japan accounted for only 2.3%.


The person in charge of the latest MEXT survey says the stagnation in Japan’s R&D activities is “attributable to the fact that university faculty members have fewer hours for research.”


National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) President Hashimoto Kazuhito serves as a member of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, which serves as the headquarters for the government’s science and technology policy.  “Japan should not adopt a “selection and concentration” strategy but a policy of enhancing the level of each research project,” he says. “For instance, we will discuss increasing the employment of young researchers as a way to keep [universities] from seeking short-term results.” (Abridged)

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