Changing science production in Japan: The expansion of competitive funds, reduction of block grants, and unsung heroes

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Purpose - This chapter describes the changing nature of Japanese science production. The author explains Japan's rise to prominence as the country with the second largest number of annual research publications in the world, followed by its subsequent decline to fifth in the world. The chapter highlights implications for Japanese universities of shifts in research policy. Design - The author examines bibliometric data as well as contextual data from Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to analyze the contributions of Japanese universities in STEM+ research from 1975 to 2010. The chapter examines changes in higher education funding policies and their relationship to university-based production of STEM+ research articles in recent decades. The chapter also includes brief comparative analyses with selected other countries, including highly productive countries in Asia (China, Korea, and Taiwan), Western Europe (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), as well as the United States. Findings - Bibliometric data show that Japan's second-tier research universities contributed to Japan's rise to the second largest producer of STEM+ scientific research. When these second-tier research universities received less money from the government, their scientific output declined and aggregate national research output declined relative to other countries. Originality/value - The chapter uses more recent and comprehensive data than other studies of research output of Japanese universities and offers several implications for research policy and higher education funding. Indeed, the chapter argues that second-tier universities are the "unsung heroes" of Japanese science production. The chapter also suggests that Japanese policymakers may need to reconsider their reliance on competitive funding over block grants that sustain research universities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-140
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Perspectives on Education and Society
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • higher education funding
  • Japan
  • national universities
  • research policy
  • research universities
  • Science production


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