Formulation of the Second S&T Basic Plan
By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)
The First five-year Basic Plan was completed in 2000. From the middle of 2000 through mid 2001, continuous efforts to evaluate the results of the First and to draw up the Second Basic Plan had been made.
As I have already reported, the First Basic Plan had been carried forward during the five years until 2000. Objectives of the Plan included expanding the science and technology (S&T) budget to 17 trillion yen, supporting ten thousand postdoctoral researchers, and obtaining new technical staff members for research and studies. The S&T budget was raised from 12.6 trillion yen during the period of fiscal 1991 to 1995 to 17.2 trillion yen in the next five fiscal years. It was an increase of 36%, and was highly regarded because it had resulted in plenty of experimental tools and materials and increased employment of young researchers.
It should be noted that during this period Japan had been suffering from the aftereffects of the collapse of Bubble economy, and budgets were reduced in many other fields. Therefore, despite the economic situation the increased S&T budget was highly appreciated.
On the other hand, the expenditure for construction and maintenance of institutions related to S&T was decreased by 3.3% during the same period. For this reason some point out that the research environment as a whole was not much improved, and the increased resources was scattered with little effect. Another criticism is that there was little achievement in the research and development (R&D) itself, although some of the numerical objectives, such as increasing S&T budget and cultivating ten thousand postdoctoral researchers, were accomplished.
As a matter of fact, the ratio of papers written by Japanese researchers published in "Nature" magazine, for example, used to be three to four percent, but a recent study shows that it is now doubled to eight percent and more. Such criticism, therefore, might be better directed at the lack of strategic vision in the First S&T Basic Plan. The increased budget was not very effectively used when the resources were scattered covering all the areas. Strategically, it should have been invested in a specified few S&T areas in order to promote more effective R&D.
During this First Basic Plan period, President Clinton's government in the U.S. promoted many national projects focusing on information and communication technology. By these efforts in the field of information and communication, especially Internet-related technology, American industry is in the position to lead the rest of the world. The methods of the American government, which also intensively invested in the project for decoding human genome are one of the models Japan should follow. A weak point of the First Basic Plan was lack of strategy in view of reinforcement of international competitiveness of national industries.
In other words, what we need is not only a quantitative increase of S&T resources but also a system for mobile and flexible investment in important R&D areas as well as appropriate allocation based upon the evaluation of past achievements.
Accordingly, the Second Basic Plan has the following four principles (see http://www8.cao.go.jp/cstp/english/summary.html in detail):
- Prioritized allocation of resources aiming effective R&D investment;
- Pursuit of mechanism for excellent achievement and expansion of investment on infrastructure;
- Inevitable restitution of R&D achievement to the public; and
- Internationalization of Japan's S&T activities.
Based upon the first principle, Life Science, Information and Communication Technology, Environmental Science and Technology, and Nanotechnology and Materials were given highest priority in the allocation of R&D resources. They were recognized as contributing greatly to the expansion of intellectual property as well as economic and social effects. Energy, Manufacturing, Social Infrastructure and Exploratory Area will be promoted as secondary priorities. It was the first time in Japan, and therefore we may call it an epoch, that the government clearly expressed some prioritized areas as its principle.
The second and the third principles are related to improving the environment for the promotion of S&T as well as how to return its fruits to society. One of the definite policies under these principles is doubling competitive research funds in five years. The competitive research funds distribute resources according to the evaluation of proposal, reviewed by researchers. It is expected that, by adopting social point of view in the evaluation process, researches with higher probability of social return would increase. Also, industrial technology is going to be strengthened. More concretely, the system for information flow and interactive human resources will be reformed to fortify the industry-academia-government cooperation in order to promote the matching of socio-economic demands with research achievement at the public R&D institutes.
The declaration of the fourth principle is another characteristic of the Second Basic Plan:
- Japan's accumulation of S&T activities done in the 20th century can be continuously developed further in the 21st century so as to solve national problems and make international contribution; and
- Japan's experience of modernization can contribute to the world in comprising S&T cultivation and preservation of traditional cultures.
Furthermore, the following three articles are stated to encourage more practical policies:
- Proposing and conducting international cooperative projects (for global-scale issues and international joint activities on fundamental research);
- Enhancing dissemination of information to the world; and
- Internationalizing domestic R&D circumstances.
The Second Basic Plan introduced completely new strategies to support Japan's S&T policy. In order to fully realize these strategies, the Council for Science and Technology Policy (CSTP) was organized as the centralized management body for the overall S&T policy of the government.