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Home > Tech Reiews > Japan Technology Review Last Updated: 15:24 03/09/2007
Japan Technology Review #10: July 30, 2001

Establishment of the Council for Science and Technology Policy

By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)

On January 6, 2001, the Council for Science and Technology Policy (CSTP) was established following reorganization of government ministries and agencies. The council is situated in the Cabinet Office to build and promote national strategies on Science and Technology (S&T) policies as a control tower. It holds cross-ministerial discussions concerning S&T policies from the national point of view, and, if necessary, makes suggestions for policy making to the Prime Minister.

According to the Government's homepage, the tasks of the CSTP are as follow:

1. Responding to requests for recommendation from the Prime Minister or other ministers, the CSTP investigates and discusses the following matters;
1. Basic policy to promote science and technology comprehensively and strategically
2. Basic policy to allocate resources for science and technology, such as researchers and budgets, and other important issues for science and technology promotion
2. The CSTP evaluates important research and development projects, including government-funded, large-scale projects.
3. The CSTP can express opinions to the Prime Minister and other ministers on important issues of science and technology.

In Japan, such ministries and agencies as the Ministry of Education, the Science and Technology Agency, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have long promoted their own S&T policies independently. Such independence did not trigger any special problem because the ministries' projects simply followed research and development examples of advanced nations.

However, in the 1980s when Japan's S&T started to catch up with advanced nations, an era of promoting original R&D arrived. Redundancy or omission in the ministries' policies emerged. The idea of gathering and coordinating each ministry's policy and promoting them collectively came out of this experience.

As a matter of fact, the Council for Science and Technology, the former body of CSTP, had existed as the supreme deliberative assembly of S&T policies for a long time. In the 1980s its function was fortified by, among others, adding authority to distribute funds directly towards major research themes in order to promote Japan's S&T. This can be understood as a reform in order to emphasize the strategies of Japan's S&T policy. However, although the Council for Science and Technology was strengthened in these ways, its activities were restrained within the framework of the Science and Technology Agency, which served as its secretariat.

Accordingly, the newly established CSTP was incorporated into the Cabinet Office, an organization linked directly to the Prime Minister, and has a higher position than any other ministry or agency. CSTP is required to function to coordinate the setting of research themes and budget requests by having a broad perspective covering ministries and agencies.

Today Japan may be described as an "advanced S&T nation." Its industrial products with advanced technology spread all over the world, and its S&T resources are by no means inferior to those of other nations. For example, in 1999, Japan's total expenditure for R&D including both government and industry was about 16 trillion-yen. It exceeds half that of the U.S. (about 28 trillion yen), and much higher than those of Germany (about 5.7 trillion yen), France (about 3.5 trillion yen) or the U.K. (3.4 trillion yen). Japan's governmental expenditure and the number of researchers are larger than those of European countries, and Japan ranks quite high, as far as figures are concerned.

However, Japan's S&T has a poor international reputation. Among many possible reasons, the major ones could be the lack of (1) national strategy for S&T, (2) severe evaluation of research themes or researchers, and (3) cooperation among industry, academia, and government. In short, Japan's S&T has not yet come up to the global standard.

CSTP is where Japan should earnestly consider how its S&T should be in the 21st century. It is time for Japan to sweep away the lack of "strategy," "evaluation" and "cooperation," and seriously tackle the problems of researchers' tendency of leveling out, and carrying about the fruitful cooperation of industry-academia-government.

CSTP, chaired by the Prime Minister, invited the following seven experts as its nucleus members:
Dr. Hiroo Imura, former President and Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University (Endocrinology), Dr. Hideki Shirakawa, Nobel laureate in Chemistry and Professor Emeritus, Tsukuba University (High Polymer Engineering), and Dr. Reiko Kuroda, Professor, University of Tokyo (Biochemistry) from the fields of Natural Science;
Dr. Shiro Ishii, Professor, International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Law History), and Dr. Hisako Shimura, President, Tsuda College (International Politics) from the fields of Humanities and Social Science; and
Mr. Hiroshi Kuwahara, Former Vice Chairman of the Board, Hitachi, Ltd. and Mr. Katsunosuke Maeda, Chairman of the Board, Toray Industries Inc. from the industrial world. This selection is characteristic for inviting competent persons not only from the Natural Science fields, but also from the fields of Humanities and Social Science such as sociology and economics as well as private enterprises.

CSTP also invited some office staff members from private organizations in expectation of greater activities in its secretarial function. Another shift from policies made by the government toward cooperation with private sectors was further enhanced by setting up a forum for CSTP members to exchange opinions with representatives from industry. It should be mentioned that cooperation of the government and industry in Japan's S&T policy making is thus improving as a strong trend.

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