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6 Challenges Despite differences in the research systems of the two countries, the United States and Japan are confronted with some similar challenges. Re- search in some of the newest areas of science and technology increasingly requires expensive, sophisticated equipment and more multi- and cross- disciplinary exchanges. Shorter lag times between "basic" research and profitable applications in many new sciences invoke quandaries about how to handle university-industry cooperation. Tensions between the princi- ples that govern academic institutions academic freedom and scientific exchange and those that rule in the corporate world-return on invest- ment and secrecy-plague both nations to varying degrees. Furthermore, increasing budgetary constraints call into question the role of government in resource allocation and science policymaking. It is helpful to remember these "generic" challenges when considering the criticism that Americans and Japanese aim at their own respective sys- tems. In addition, given the limited experience of Americans in Japanese laboratories and the strength of Japan in some fields of science and technol- ogy, the United States faces an urgent challenge in learning how to access and participate in Japan's research and development system. It could be argued that the challenge to Japan is also significant: to open its research and development system to meaningful foreign participation soon enough to meet rising expectations abroad that Japan will play a growing role in basic science and technology transfer. The Japanese system faces a serious challenge in its efforts to improve basic research, efforts that must be made if Japan is to further scientific and technological progress, answer international pressure for it to contribute to 26
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27 science, and encourage foreign participation in its research system. Recent Japanese proposals to create "centers of excellence" in Japanese universities are likely to challenge Japan's "democratic" funding system. Such centers will require concentrated funds and support, an idea that runs counter to the current proclivity to spread funds evenly if thinly among Japanese university chairs. The organization and funding mechanisms for university laboratories in both countries create unique difficulties in meeting some of the other aforementioned challenges. Despite the strengths of the peer review sys- tem, some in the United States believe that overemphasizing a researcher's publication record in evaluation may create disincentives to pursue new and possibly risky research. Furthermore, the requirement for each researcher to seek his own funding has been criticized for creating too much (possibly counterproductive) competition and for encouraging U.S. researchers to re- spond to agendas other than those dictated by scientific research. In Japan, on the other hand, it is argued that the rigidity of the chair system, while good for education, stifles creative research. The Japanese system provides more security in the form of stable funding to the researcher, but leaves him few alternatives if his proposals are rejected. It also Reemphasizes the contributions of younger researchers. In both the United States and Japan, universities are organized by scientific disciplines in a classification system that may have outlived its usefulness. Both nations must find new ways to break down the barri- ers between traditional scientific disciplines. F. Karl Willenbrock, of the American Society for Engineering Education, has noted that the teaching and research components of engineering education increasingly require cross-d~scipl~na~y and cross-~nstitutional ties. He claims that traditional d~scipl~nary-structured engineering schools are not suited to some of the newer technological fields (e.g., advanced matenals, computer technology, and biotechnology).) Similarly, a 1986 Office of Science and Technology Poligy report recommended the creation of multidisciplinary science and technology centers as "much of the most exciting research to be undertaken In the future will not fall wit n the traditional natural science disciplines."2 The establishment of Engineering Research Centers Is an example of a recent attempt to respond to this need, as are multidisciplinary centers within some U.S. universities. 1 F. Karl Willenbrock, "Remarks on Cross-Disciplinary and Cross-Institutional Relationships in Engineering Education," Proceedings of the Fourth United States-Japan Science Policy Seminar (Washington, D.C.: National Science Foundation, 1988), 67. 2 Office of Science and Technology Policy, Report of the White House Science Council Panel on the Health of US. Colleges and Universities, February 1986, 16.
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28 In Japan, too, attempts are being made to respond to the rising need for high-quality, expensive, multidisciplinary research. Japan has created a number of new types of research organizations. Witness, for example, the rising acceptance of students graduating from technical colleges and the establishment of new types of institutions such as national interuniversity research institutes and Tsukuba Science City. The 12, soon to be 13, interuniversity research institutes have all been created in fields that require the collaboration of teams of scientists, and/or large, expensive facilities. These institutes are well funded and equipped and, in some cases, have attracted foreign researchers. Another challenge faced by both nations is the requirement for in- creasingly complex, expensive equipment in some of the newest areas of scientific research. Both countries are seeking new ways to encourage co- operation between institutions and across sectors, in order to share the cost of equipment and facilities. In this sense, the Japanese grant system has been criticized as inefficient and wasteful. Because each chair receives an equal amount of the funds available for general research support, some funds go to faculty members who are not actually pursuing serious research. In addition, the system has encouraged a growth in the number of chairs and each chair's share has correspondingly declined. Monbusho has made attempts to address this issue with new types of competitive grants and programs that encourage university-industry cooperation. The same chal- lenge in the United States has prompted some U.S. universities to make allocation decisions more centrally in some of the more expensive areas of scientific research. The challenge of increasingly expensive equipment for leading edge technology exacerbates an ongoing decline in the quality and condition of facilities and infrastructure in universities in both the United States and Japan. As mentioned above, Monbusho's traditional allocation of resources may have tended to spread funds too thinly to be useful. Outdated equipment and rundown facilities are becoming the hallmark of Japan's most prestigious universities. In the United States, where only NSF offers general support to university research, real government support declined at a time when enrollments in U.S. universities were rising, leading to a similar situation. At the same time, there is increasing controversy in the United States over the way in which federal grants are determined. With the increasing costs of research and declining federal budgets, researchers complain that too much money is being allocated to "indirect" costs; administrators claim they are not being fully reimbursed for indirect expenses; and the government worries that researchers are not being held accountable to the taxpayer for the money they receive. This had led to a growing tendency for the government to attempt to micromanage university research, a trend
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29 that not only chafes university researchers, but creates more paperwork and red tape. Although both the United States and Japan are encouraging increased industrial support for university laboratories, the need for stable, predictable funding has been cited as a potential problem of increased reliance on corporate funding. Admitting that U.S. budget cuts have at times created an atmosphere of unstable federal funding, critics claim that corporate funding can be even less predictable. Corporations are more likely to cut university funding than their own research staffs when profits falter. Both the United States and Japan are also challenged by a lagging interest in graduate engineering education. Although it has been argued that Japanese universities could attract more graduate engineering students if they did a better job at integrating their educational and research roles, it appears that in both nations economics may have more to do with a declining interest in graduate school than a lack of opportunity to do research. In the United States, the disinterest in science and engineering has been linked to poor education in mathematics and the sciences as early as the elementary school level. There is, moreover, a large minority population that needs encouragement if it is to contribute to the pool of graduate engineers.