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Home > Policy > White Paper, Notice, Announcement > White Paper > JAPANESE GOVERNMENT POLICES IN EDUCATION, SCIENCE, SPORTS AND CULTURE 1997 > Scientific Research Chapter 4 Section 1 4

Scientific Research: Opening the Door to the Future
Chapter 4 Domestic and Overseas Trends in Scientific Research
Section 1: The Level of Research in Japan
4. Level of Research in Japan Improving Steadily

As is apparent from the above discussion, many leading researchers feel that, on the whole, Japanese scientific research, especially in the natural sciences, has achieved international standards. The researchers' subjective assessments are basically borne out by objective comparisons of numbers of scientific papers. Overall, Japan ranks either second, following the United States, or a close third, behind the United Kingdom. It has reached the same level as the European countries in all categories and has surpassed them in many fields. And in all categories, Japan's rate of increase is far ahead of Europe and North America.

The expansion of the range of scientific journals included in the four databases studied could work in Japan's favor. From an overall perspective, considering that in some fields it is still the custom in Japan to submit papers to domestic journals (most of which are not included in the aforementioned databases, even though some of these journals are published in English as well as in Japanese) it is clear that, in terms of numbers of scientific papers, research activity is more intense in Japan than in Europe or North America.

The Science Citation Index is made up of papers published in authoritative scientific journals. It currently covers approximately 4,000 journals. An increase in a country's share of the total number of papers recorded here indicates an improvement in the quality of research in that country. Japan's share has risen in most fields, confirming that the overall quality of research has improved.

In terms of numbers of citations from scientific papers in the 1990-94 period, Japan ranks fourth behind the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The qualitative standard of Japanese research is especially high in those fields in which Japan occupies one of the top rankings.

Using database analysis to evaluate research standards means relying primarily on scientific journals published in the United States, and few papers written in Japanese are (or can be) included in European or North American databases. For this and other reasons, papers written in Japan are inevitably at a disadvantage. In addition, the inadequacy of information distribution in Japan means that there are few citations in foreign papers; moreover, Japanese scholars tend to cite papers written in other countries. The number of citations from Japanese papers is, therefore, inevitably low compared with totals for other countries.

When these factors are taken into account, it becomes clear that, while Japan cannot match the United States in terms of research levels, it is producing results that compare favorably with work carried out in Europe. Despite a research environment that is not ideal, researchers' efforts have brought a steady improvement in the standard of Japanese research, which is expected to rise still further as the infrastructure for scientific research is upgraded.

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