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4 Basic Versus Applied Research Despite a lack of agreement on the definitions of basic and applied re- search, some general observations can be made about relative strengths and weaknesses in Japan and the United States and about the role of the uni- versi~ laboratory in basic and applied research. It should be remembered when considering this issue that Japanese "basic" research, particularly the basic research conducted by industry, is generally considered to be more goal-oriented than U.S. "basic" research. In both the United States and Japan, there is a division of responsibili- ties between universities and industry, with academe generally participating in more basic research and industry pursuing applications. In both coun- tries, however, there is also a trend toward the encouragement of more cooperation across sectors, a subject that will be examined in some detail below. The overall division of national research and development funds be- tween basic, applied, and developmental research in both countries is also similar. Nevertheless it is generally accepted that while the United States leads the world in basic research, Japan's strengths are in applications. As a result, each nation has made efforts to correct what it perceives as its own area of weakness. Now that Japan has "caught up" with the West in many fields, Japanese officials have begun to focus on the need for more basic research. The Sci- ence and Technologr Agency's (STA) 1983 white paper, for example, noted that Japanese companies believe they are lagging behind their foreign com- petition in their ability to acquire and develop new knowledge. Then, in 1984, the Prime Minister's Council on Science and Technology called 15
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16 for more basic and fundamental research. More recently, the Ministry of International Made and Industry's (MITI) first white paper on industrial technology gave the nation good grades on high technology development, but lamented that Japan is lagging behind in basic research.) In these and other fore, Japanese analysts decry their inability to engage in creative fun- damental research. At the same time, the Japanese believe it will become increasingly difficult to access new knowledge from abroad, according to a 1985 NSF report. NSF reports that Japanese businessmen are increasingly concerned about the availability of new information, in addition to being skeptical about the usefulness of imported knowledge given the rapid pace of advance in many of science and technology's newer fields.2 The United States, on the other hand, has begun in recent years to reexamine its own university education and research programs. Although a consensus has not been reached on the proper course for U.S. university re- search, some U.S. analysts criticize American university research programs for being skewed too much toward fundamental or basic research. The importance of science to national economic strength, however, suggests the need for continued excellence in basic research. It should be noted, however, that the United States has achieved its world-renowned position in basic research in spite of research and spending policies that, in large part due to an emphasis on defense, are skewed away from basic research. Although universities conduct over half of the nation's basic research, university research only accounts for about 12 percent of the nation's total research and development expenditures. In contrast, more than 70 percent of the nation's research and development budget is allocated for defense. The U.S. Department of Defense's research budget is actually allocated for "research, development, testing and evaluation," or "RDT&E." Over 90 percent of its RDT&E budget falls into the "DT&E" categories.3 This is not, of course, to belittle the amount that is spent on basic research in absolute terms. Despite the small relanve size, the U.S. Department of Defense spent more than $800 million on basic research in 1985. ~ Tsusho Sangyosho [Ministry of International Trade and Industry], Sangyo Gijutsu no Doko to KadLai, [Trends and Topics.in Industrial Technology], 1988, 35, 45. 2National Science Foundation, Tolyo Report Memorandum, No. 69, 25 March 1985. 3American Association for the Advancement of Science, Report XII, R&D FY 1988, 7, 9.