Japan plans €1,9 billion research merger

Nieuws | de redactie
2 februari 2012 | Facing rampant budget growth, policymakers in Japan plan to merge five research institutes into one in order to cut costs and implement governance changes. In total, these organizations account for over 5400 researchers, staff members and a total budget equivalent to €1,9 billion.

With 220%, Japan has the highest public debt to GDP deficitworldwide. At the same time the government is fighting with anaging population that it expects to shrink by 1/3 until 2060. Thisstrains both public budgets and quality in higher education ashighlighted in a recent Astronomy controversy over the sun orbiting earth.

Slashing wasteful spending

Now, the government announced to consolidate its budget with taxhikes and spending cuts. One major target will be the Japaneseresearch industry. Policymakers want to merge the five largestpublic R&D institutes into one in order to save money onoverhead costs and enhancing governance.

According to Nature magazine, RIKEN, NIMS, JAMSTEC, NIED and JST would allbe combined into one organization combining a current total budgetof €1,9 billion and 5400 researchers and staff members. “This isthe result of our aim to create the world’s leading science andtechnology while slashing wasteful spending and making theorganization as compact as possible,” commented Tenzo Okumura,senior vice-minister of the education and science ministry.

Cutting costs at the expense of researchoutput

Researchers, however, warn that this cost-saving move might goat the expense of overall output. “The plan isn’t intended toimprove the research system. Each of the institutes hasfundamentally different characteristics, so I feel they would bevery difficult to integrate effectively,” stated Tasuku Honjo,molecular biologist at Kyoto University and former member of thegovernment’s science advisory body CSTP.

NIMS President, Sukekatsu Ushioda, criticizes governance changesthat will be part of the reform package. “Currently, the NIMSpresident has sufficient authority, so the decision-making processis fast. We at NIMS can often take new actions shortly after aboard meeting. But if a higher management is added above NIMS, thedecision-making would be slower and it would be difficult to takedynamic approaches.”

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