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The Group on the Science System (GSS) is a working group established within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to monitor the effects that changes in the international situation and social and economic conditions have on universities and other research organizations and on research policy in member countries, and to study effective ways to deal with them.
Through information exchanges and studies of universities and other institutions of higher education, the GSS is currently attempting to assess the Impact of various factors on scientific research in the 21st century. The Group has reported that the following patterns appear in many OECD countries.
(a) Declining government research and development expenditure
: In many OECD countries, there has been a downtrend in government research and development expenditure that is also affecting university research and development expenditure. Traditionally, scientific research in universities has been recognized as a public commodity and financed by government. With the decline of government research and development financing, however, it has become necessary to seek new sources of funding.
(b) Qualitative changes in government financing
: Government funding for university research is increasingly being invested in projects that are of a mission-oriented nature, which leads to more short-term and market-oriented university research and development.
(c) Increase in research and development financing by industry
: Through joint projects, contracted research and development, and funding researchers, private industry is financing an increasing share of research in universities. This leads to research that is more directed to potential commercial applications.
(d) Increased pressure for an economic contribution
: There is growing pressure for universities to contribute more relevantly to economic development and technological innovation, creating tensions in traditional discipline-based university research organization.
: The trend toward joint research with industry, government laboratories, and other research institutes has engendered increased networking among research institutions, changing the institutional context of research.
(f) Globalization of university research
: The internationalization brought about by advances in telecommunications technology Is affecting the research environment and research and development activities, as well as escalating international competition and increasing specialization.
(g) Problems in training and recruiting research personnel
: There is growing concern about the recruitment of researchers as the present research workforce ages and science loses popularity with young people, coming at a time when methods of training researchers are changing.
Reports from Japan have highlighted
Reports from other countries indicate that, with the exception of Finland, science and technology budgets are stagnating in most European and North American countries. There is thus considerable interest in the sustained increase in Japan's science and technology budget under the Science and Technology Basic Plan, and in Japan's efforts to encourage basic research at a time when other countries are focusing on research of a mission-oriented nature. It has also become clear that Japan shares a number of tasks with European and North American countries, including maximum encouragement of basic research, which is the main mandate of universities, despite financial constraints, and balancing education and research in an environment of mass access to higher education.
OECD, "Sience, Technology and Industry: Scoreboard of Indicators 1997"
Trends in Government-Financed R&D as a Percentage of Total Government Expenditure
"Most OECD governments spend between 2.5 and 3.5 percent of total government expenditure on R&D carried out on national territory.... The shares are somewhat higher in the United States, France, Australia, and the Netherlands and distinctly lower in Greece, Portugal, and Ireland. OECD governments have generally converged towards this range, with the indicator falling in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, but rising in Spain and in many smaller countries. During the 1990s, the priority attributed to R&D, as reflected by this indicator, has tended to level off or to decline. The main exceptions are Australia. Austria, Finland, and Spain."
Note: In Japan, science and technology expenditures accounted for about 1.6% of the national budget in 1996.
Increase in the Share of the Higher Education Sector in Government-Financed R&D
"Government-financed R&D in the higher education sector has continued to increase in the 1990s in all three zones (allowing for the changes in reporting methods in 1 990 and 199 1 in the United States). In the Asia-Pacific (OECD) zone, support did level off temporarily in 1994. Over the decade 1985-95, the share of government-financed R&D carried out in the sector grew from about one-third to nearly one-half in the European Union, from about one-quarter to one-third in North America, but remained at about 40 per cent in the Asia-Pacific (OECD) zone. Some two-thirds or more of government-financed R&D is performed in this sector in Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey."
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