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News Release 98-005

Japan Catching U.S. in Some Scientific and Technological Indicators

January 28, 1998

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Some of Japan's leading indicators of science and technological strength have caught up with or surpassed those of the United States, a special report by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Science Resources Studies (SRS) concludes.

The report, The Science and Technology Resources of Japan, says Japan leads the U.S. in the percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) invested by government and industry in non-defense research and development (R&D). It also says that Japan outpaces the U.S. in the percent of its GDP invested by government in civilian R&D.

The report describes Japan's growing awareness that it needs more advanced industries based on fundamental science. This awareness culminated in a 1995 Science and Technology Basic Law, and the decision to double the government R&D budget by the year 2000 or shortly thereafter.

"Like us, Japan has been dealing with a large national debt, a public eager to balance the budget and a private sector that prefers to see a smaller government," Jean Johnson, the report's author, explained. "Although Japan has been experiencing slower economic growth in the 1990s than most other industrial nations, its government has chosen to increase funding of science as an investment in the future."

The increased investment in science is seen in Japan as an important aspect of the nation's recovery from recession and for long-term, sustainable national growth and development, says the report.

The report also reveals where Japan lags behind the U.S.: in R&D expenditures for higher education; in output in competitive research funding at universities; and in its share of the world's influential scientific articles.

Japan is attempting to address its current weaknesses in research through increased government budgets targeted specifically for universities and national labs, expansion of doctoral programs and more emphasis on basic research, the report states.

Japan's efforts could have a potentially positive influence for the international research community, the SRS report's summary chapter says. It explains that Japan's additional research funds are being earmarked for international cooperation on global issues such as food, energy, the environment and infectious diseases. Japan is also contributing more to basic research projects, such as the Human Frontiers and the Human Genome Project.

Johnson notes that further monitoring will be done of Japan's new R&D investment strategy -- especially for its impact on Japan's technological capability and economic recovery -- and because of the important insights it will provide policy makers and students in international development.


Editors: For the complete report, see:

Media Contacts
William C. Noxon, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

Program Contacts
Jean Johnson, NSF, (703) 292-8777, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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