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2nd Meeting of the Heads of Research Councils in Asia (A-HORCs)
Roundtable on "S&T Human Resource Development"
Motoyuki Ono President of JSPS

December 3, 2004

 

S&T Human Resources in Japan

I would like to begin my presentation about the state of Japan's science and technology human resources, based on my experience as the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, or MEXT.

(Total Number of Researchers)
Currently, the total number of researchers in Japan is about 756,000. This number includes doctoral course students, who are usually regarded as part-time researchers in statistics of this kind. The number of full-time researchers is estimated to be about 676,000. The United States and EU have more researchers than Japan, and China has almost as many researchers as Japan.

If one examines the number of researchers per population, Japan has the highest figures among the advanced nations. In the area of science and technology human resources, from a quantitative point of view, Japan ranks at the highest level.

(Shortage of S&T Human Resources)
Even though the number of researchers is high, it doesn't mean that we have enough human resources in all of the aspects of S&T.

First, there are shortages of researchers in growing fields such as life sciences, information and communication technology, environment, and nanotechnology.

Second, there are shortages of people assisting researchers such as research assistants and technicians.

Third, we need more management personnel who have both a sense of S&T and a sense of business management.

Lastly, there is a shortage of personnel intermediating between S&T and society, such as those who can support innovation by utilizing the fruits of S&T and those who possess knowledge in the areas of both S&T and legal affairs.

(Quality of Researchers)
Now, let us turn to the qualitative aspect of Japanese researchers. Japan has 2.5 million university students, but has only 200,000 graduate students. The percentage of graduate students is 8.2%. This indicates that the percentage of Japanese researchers that have Master's degrees or Ph.D. degrees is not high and that the quality of researchers in Japan requires improvement.

(Need for Diversity)
There are other challenges in Japan's S&T human resources. A major problem is that it lacks diversity.

First, there is a lack of diversity in research fields. Japan has small percentages of individuals holding physical science degrees, since most Japanese doctoral degrees are awarded in health science and engineering.

Second, there is a lack of female researchers. The percentage of women researchers in Japan is about 10%. The number of women researchers is increasing, but it is still not enough.

Third, we have a rapidly aging society. The proportion of the so-called "productive" generation will decrease in the future. Consequently, not only for researchers but also for the society as a whole, we will have to consider how to allow the older generation to participate in productive activities.

Lastly, there is a lack of foreign researchers. There are about 10,000 foreign researchers in Japan in 2004. However, it is still very small compared to the total number of researchers in Japan, which is 760,000.

(Need for Mobility)
The last challenge that I will present today is the lack of mobility among Japanese researchers. The data shows that more than 50% of Japanese researchers have belonged to only one institution. In other words, they haven't changed their institutions at all. To improve the quality of Japanese researchers, this is something that needs to be changed. As you know, experiencing research at many institutions and in many different environments helps researchers deepen their skills and broaden their views.

(Professional Graduate Schools)
Now, I'd like to introduce programs for S&T human resource development by MEXT. The professional graduate school system was established in FY2003 as a new graduate school mechanism to carry out "practical education specializing in the training of professionals with advanced specialized skills." The system is different from previous graduate schools, with a view to fulfilling the function of cultivating human resources with advanced skills expected by society. So far, 22 graduate schools have been established and 25 more schools are now under the approval process.

(21st Century COE Program)
"The 21st Century COE Program" carries out priority support and promotes the building of universities of the highest international standard. This program aims to create Centers of Excellence, or world-class research and education centers, through competition among national, public and private universities with high research potential. The program helps universities to add the function of cultivating advanced human resources. Social interest in this program is extremely high, not just among people involved in universities but also among overseas organizations, and there are big expectations for future developments

(Distinctive University Education Support Program)
The next program is the Distinctive University Education Support Program, or "Good Practice." The program selects and supports distinctive and outstanding practice to improve university education, and widely provide information to society by publishing collections of case studies, holding forums and so on.

MEXT is also planning to start a new program from the next fiscal year aiming to support creative education projects responding to the needs of society at the graduate level.

(Research Fellowships for Young Scientists)
Now, I'd like to introduce JSPS programs for human resource development. First, we have the following fellowship programs for doctor course students and postdoctoral researchers. Fellowship recipients may apply for a research grant of up to 1.5 million yen per year.

The postdoctoral fellowships also help to increase the mobility of Japanese researchers by requiring recipients to conduct their research under fellowships in laboratories other than those where they received their Ph.D.s.

Since 1999, JSPS has been providing over 4,000 fellowships per year. The Japanese government announced the "10,000 Post-doctorals Support Plan" in 1996, and promoted various support programs for post-doctorals. Among them, the most important were the JSPS fellowships. The goal of supporting 10,000 post-doctorals throughout the government was reached in 1999.

(JSPS Fellowships for Foreign Researchers)
JSPS also provides fellowships to invite foreign researchers to Japan. The first one is the Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers. This is a program to invite young researchers from overseas to conduct collaborative research activities. In providing such opportunities, the program seeks to assist the young fellows in advancing their own research while stimulating the younger generation in Japanese academic circles.

When one examines the number of fellows by region, two-thirds come from Asia. This shows the important role JSPS plays in supporting and fostering young Asian researchers. When one examines the numbers by country, China stands at 513, about one-third of the total fellows.

The second program is the Invitation Fellowship Program. This is a fellowship for senior scientists. The fellows are invited to Japan to conduct various scientific activities, such as holding discussions with Japanese researchers, participating in seminars, and giving lectures.

When one examines the numbers by region, about 30% are from Asia. As for the numbers by country, 52 are Indian, 34 are Korean and 33 are Chinese.

(Asian Science Seminar)
Along with these fellowship programs that invite young scientists to Japan, JSPS operates other programs in cooperation with Asian countries for the purpose of fostering young scientists in Asia.

The Asian Science Seminar is an intensive seminar of one- to two-weeks in duration for young scientists in Asian countries. The seminars are designed to spur scientific achievement in the region by introducing the latest scientific advances to the young Asian researchers who attend. We hold three seminars every year, two in Japan and one abroad.

(RONPAKU Program)
The RONPAKU Program provides financial support to researchers from Asian countries who wish to obtain their Ph.D. degrees from Japanese universities by submitting a dissertation without going through a graduate study course. A period of up to five years is allowed to do the dissertation research. The RONPAKU fellow can visit a Japanese university once a year to conduct research under the supervision of a Japanese advisor. This is a popular program for researchers who cannot obtain Ph.D. degrees in their own countries for a variety of reasons.

(Core University Program)
The next one is the Core University Program. This is the largest program that JSPS operates in cooperation with Asian countries. It is a large-scale scientific exchange program, which combines joint research, joint seminars and scientist exchanges.

Under the program, JSPS and its counterpart institutions designate core universities in their respective countries in specific research field and topics. The core universities carry out a variety of joint research activities in cooperation with other universities and scientists in each field.

We are now implementing 29 projects in the Core University Program. For example, we have 6 ongoing projects with Korea, 6 with Thailand, 5 with China, 5 with Indonesia, and so on. We also have two multilateral projects with Southeast Asian countries.

(Future Directions)
So far, I have introduced a variety of programs that JSPS operates. Now, what does the future hold?

Our future objective is clearly stated in our Mid-Term Objectives, to "strengthen research partnership between Japan and the countries of Asia with an eye to developing the region into a research hub on a par with those of North America and Europe."

To achieve this objective, we set in place our Mid-Term Plan to promote large-scale joint research projects in cooperation with overseas research councils, with a view to strengthening research partnership between Japan and other Asian countries.

In accordance with this Mid-term Plan, we are now planning to start new large-scale joint research projects by reforming the current Core University Program.

(Reform of Core University Program)
Since the establishment of the Core University Program in 1978, the situation has changed. Some countries are not as poor as they once were, with their level of science and technology increasing rapidly. On the other hand, some countries are still struggling with poverty. In other words, we now have countries with a wide range of political, economic, social, and scientific statuses in Asia.

For this reason, we are planning to create two types of programs by reforming the Core University Programs. One is the Asian CORE Program, which aims to create world-class centers of research and education in Asia. In this program, JSPS and its counterpart agencies in Asian countries will support joint research projects as equal partners. This is a program to make Asia one of the research hubs of the world.

However, there are still many countries which are really in need of assistance. The Asian and African Science Platform Program is a program for such countries. Under the program, JSPS will support joint research projects on topics unique to or important for Asian and African countries. We will not require funding from the counterpart agencies in this case. This is a program to contribute to solving Asian and African problems from a scientific aspect.

(A3 Foresight Program)
We are now preparing another program, the A3 Foresight Program. This is a kind of intensive version of the Asian CORE Program, aimed at creating world top-class research centers in Japan, China and Korea. These countries are now the top-runners in Asian science and technology. I believe the three countries can cooperate with each other to make Asia one of the three research hubs in the world, as well as to solve Asian and African problems.

(Comparison of S&T Human Resources)
I would like to reiterate the importance and significance of cooperation between our three countries. When we compare the S&T human resources of the US, EU and our three countries, we see that none of us alone has an advantage over the US or the EU. Each of us has weaknesses and limited capabilities. However, if we combine the efforts of our three countries, the situation will change.

We have a much greater number of resources than those of the US and EU, even at this moment. This is why I strongly propose closer cooperation between our three countries, which I have named the "Asian 3", or "A3." We need stronger cooperation to make full use of the resources that we have to make our future better.

Thank you very much.