Numbers of young scientists declining in Japan

Nature News | 20 March 2012 | by Ichiko Fuyuno
Wednesday 21 March 2012
by  antonin
5 Votes

Government policies are hampering the country’s next generation of research leaders, advisory body says.

Junior researchers are being squeezed out of Japanese universities by government policies aimed at cutting costs. The claim, from the Council for Science and Technology Policy (CSTP), the government’s top advisory body on science, is raising concerns that the country’s next generation of scientific leaders is under threat and that the trend may already be harming research productivity.

The CSTP analysis comes from a draft report on Japan’s science and technology activities scheduled for publication in the next several weeks. It points out that although the number of tenured and contract faculty at publicly funded universities has grown from around 50,000 to 63,000 over the past 30 years, the number of faculty under 35 has plunged from more than 10,000 to 6,800 (see ‘Going grey’ graph below).

Part of the problem is demographic: people who were born during the ‘baby boom’ after the Second World War now occupy the senior echelons of universities — a situation that is reducing opportunities for younger researchers in other countries as well (see Nature 483, 233–235; 2012).

But changes in government policy over the past two decades have made the situation in Japan much more severe, says Hideki Hirota, an official at the CSTP and author of the report. During the 1990s, the government encouraged universities to expand their graduate schools, hiring more faculty and staff and churning out more PhDs. But by 2001, the government had begun to force national organizations, including universities, to trim the number of full-time staff every year. As a consequence, a glut of graduates found that universities were hiring far fewer young researchers.

“Universities have been given limited discretion to plan a long-term personnel strategy of their own," Hirota says.“It may not be avoidable to cut costs amid the sluggish economy, but they should be at least allowed to decide how to use their funding.”

JPEG - 169.9 kb Large, research-oriented institutions, such as Tohoku University in Sendai and Nagoya University, have been able to draw on funding from competitive grants and revenues from affiliated hospitals to slow the decline in numbers of younger staff researchers. But smaller institutions have been hit harder: a dozen universities specializing in science and engineering, such as the Toyohashi University of Technology in Aichi, saw the number of faculty under 35 fall by an average of 23% between 2004 and 2010.

And relying on competitive funding is not a long-term solution, says Masafumi Maeda, executive vice-president of the University of Tokyo. “Although competitive funding allows more hiring of young researchers and enhances their mobility and career building, many projects are time limited and don’t lead to continuous employment," he says.

Cutbacks in management grants and the extension of the mandatory retirement age to 65 at some institutions have also exacerbated the problem, says Makoto Kitano, an official in charge of supporting national universities at the science and education ministry. As part of its efforts to support young scientists, the ministry last year established a tenure-track programme for outstanding young researchers.

Shinichi Kobayashi, a specialist in science and technology workforce issues at the Research Center for University Studies at the University of Tsukuba, believes that the shortage of younger faculty may be partially responsible for a drop in Japan’s scientific productivity. According to Elsevier’s SciVerse Scopus database, the number of papers published by Japanese universities, companies and organizations slid by 4.3% between 2006 and 2010, to 112,000. Over the same time period, the UK tally rose by 12.7% to 124,000, and Germany’s climbed by 15% to 118,000.

Kobayashi suggests that one solution would be to increase funding for basic research and distribute it more broadly, especially among smaller universities, to give young scientists more opportunities. Although he acknowledges that there is no quick fix, he says that the government has ignored the growing problem for too long. “Japan needs to tackle it immediately.”

Read on Nature website

Picture credit: Fewer young Japanese scientists are finding permanent jobs at the country’s universities. (Michael Hitoshi/flashfilm/Getty)

navigation titre

mots clefs article









Aucun évènement à venir les 2 prochains mois

News items

C. Villani : "on arrive à se sentir étouffé"

dimanche 5 février

[Interview de C. Villani, The Conversation, 30/01/2017]
Revenons en France avec une question beaucoup plus terre à terre : un jeune docteur en mathématique qui vient d’enchaîner un ou deux postdoc à l’étranger décroche un poste de chargé de recherche ou de maître de conférence. Il débute alors sa carrière avec un salaire de 1 800 euros net par mois. Comment qualifier cette situation et comment l’améliorer pour créer des vocations ?

C.V. : Malgré ce salaire peu reluisant, le statut du CNRS reste attractif pour sa grande liberté. Si l’on veut garder son attrait à la profession, il est important de travailler sur le reste : en premier lieu, limiter les règles, les contraintes, les rapports. Je donnerai un exemple parmi quantité : le CNRS vient de décider qu’il refuse tout remboursement des missions effectuées dans un contexte d’économie partagée : pas de remboursement de logement Airbnb, ni de trajet BlaBlaCar… De petites contraintes en petites contraintes, on arrive à se sentir étouffé. Le simple sentiment d’être respecté et de ne pas avoir à lutter pour son budget, par ailleurs, pourra jouer beaucoup. Par ailleurs, il est certain qu’une revalorisation salariale ou d’autres avantages pour les débuts de carrière seront bienvenus.

Les universités vont continuer à geler des postes en 2017

lundi 28 novembre 2016

La crise budgétaire des universités françaises continue depuis leur passage à l’ "autonomie" avec comme conséquence directe l’utilisation de la masse comme variable d’ajustement. Comment diminuer la masse salarial ? Embaucher des contractuels au lieu de titulaires, demander et ne pas payer des heures supplémentaires aux enseignants-chercheurs titulaires, supprimer des postes d’ATER et des contrats doctoraux ou encore geler des postes. Mais que signifie "geler des postes" ? Il s’agit de ne pas ouvrir à candidature des postes de titulaires ouverts par le ministères. Depuis 2009, 11.000 postes ont été gelés dans les universités dont 1200 les cinq dernières années. En 2017, ce processus continuera dans de nombreuses universités : Paris 1, Toulouse Paul Sabatier, Reims, Paris-Est Créteil, Dijon, Orléans, Brest, Paris 8, Bordeaux 3, Artois, Bretagne-Sud, Lyon 3, Limoges, Pau, Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée.

New Analysis of Employment Outcomes for Ph.D.s in Canada

Thursday 5 February 2015

An analysis of where Canada’s Ph.D.-holders are employed finds that just 18.6 percent are employed as full-time university professors. The analysis from the Conference Board of Canada finds that nearly 40 percent of Ph.D.s are employed in higher education in some capacity, but many are in temporary or transitional positions. The other three-fifths are employed in diverse careers in industry, government and non-governmental organizations: “Indeed, employment in diverse, non-academic careers is the norm, not the exception, for Ph.D.s in Canada.” - Inside Higher Edu, January 8, 2015

[Sweden] New legislation to help foreign postgraduates stay on

Sunday 27 April 2014

On 1 July this year, new legislation will come into force in Sweden that includes measures which will make it considerably easier for foreign doctoral candidates and students to stay and work in the country after graduating.

An agreement between the outgoing Alliance government and the Swedish Green party will secure a majority vote for the proposal in the parliament. (...) – University World News, by Jan Petter Myklebust, 21 March 2014 Issue No:312

On the Web : Full news here

US : Dwindling tenure posts

vendredi 18 avril 2014

Tenure is dying out at US universities.

The proportion of non-tenure-track and non-tenured faculty posts continues to rise across all US institutions, finds a report by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in Washington DC. Losing Focus : The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 201314 surveyed 1,159 public and private US institutions and found that the overall proportion of assistant professors in non-tenure-track posts was 23.4 for 201314, compared with 20.8 in 201011. Dwindling tenured and tenure-track posts threaten the ability of scientists to conduct research without interference from funders or administrators, says John Curtis, the report’s lead author and director of research and public policy for the AAUP. - Nature, 508, 277, 09 April 2014

Sur le Web : Read on
Soutenir par un don