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HOME  > Past issues  > 2022 March 30 - April 5  > Neoliberalism spoils Japan's world ranking in academic research area to 11th from previous ranking of 4th
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2022 March 30 - April 5 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Neoliberalism spoils Japan's world ranking in academic research area to 11th from previous ranking of 4th

April 4, 2022
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

In the number of excellent research papers in world rankings, Japan ranked 11th in 2018 from the ranking of 4th in 2004. The number of papers published by national university researchers declined precipitously.

The government in 2004 turned government-owned universities into incorporated entities and has since cut down on personnel costs and operational subsidies for research activities. The amount of total subsidies decreased by 12%. On the other hand, the government increased competitive research funds. Because of this, many research projects are now required to pursue results in the short term and face difficulty in conducting long-term research. The number of full-time teaching staff with open-ended positions at national universities decreased to 40,000 from 60,000 in 2011. Revealingly, the number of part-time staff on fixed-term contracts increased by more than 20,000.

Japanese Communist Party Vice Chair Tamura Tomoko at a House of Councilors Audit Committee meeting on March 28 pointed out, "Cutbacks on operational subsidies for national universities have undermined their fiscal foundation," criticizing the cuts in these subsidies for hampering improvement in Japan's research quality. Education and Science Minister Suematsu Shinsuke in response said, "What you have pointed out is important." He admitted the need to increase the number of researchers with stable positions at national universities.

She also pointed out that employment insecurity is imminent in regards to many part-time researchers. At the end of March 2023, a large number of part-time researchers at national universities and national research institutes will be discharged. The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), for example, will terminate fix-term contracts of about 600 researchers. Tohoku University also plans to not renew contracts with about 240 part-time research workers followed by several other national universities.

If the government allows such mass dismissals as planned, dozens of research activities will stop; research equipment there will be scrapped; and graduate students who belong to these labs will face difficulty in completing their degree. Shifting from the current neoliberal policy of promoting part-time researchers and curbing overall personnel costs is needed to recover Japan's research quality.

Past related articles:
> JCP Tamura urges gov’t to instruct RIKEN to withdraw planned dismissal of 600 researchers [March 29, 2022]
> Layoffs of 600 RIKEN researchers may engender 60 leading innovative studies [March 26, 2022]
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