The number of Japanese researchers who spent at least 31 consecutive days overseas studying or conducting research on professional assignments has more than halved in recent years compared with a decade earlier, according to the education ministry.
The total number was roughly 3,700 in fiscal 2008 and 2009, down from a peak of more than 7,600 in fiscal 2000, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said, quoting the results of a recent nationwide survey.
The survey covered researchers belonging to domestic research institutes such as universities or government-backed corporations who were dispatched to foreign universities or research institutes.
The survey results were released a day after Eiichi Negishi, a Purdue University professor who was selected as one of three cowinners of the 2010 Nobel Prize in chemistry, encouraged young researchers and students to go abroad to study.
A ministry official said, “It is necessary to analyze the causes” of the plunge in the number of researchers going abroad.
The survey showed that the annual number of researchers who stayed overseas for 31 days or more in a row generally followed an upward path from the first half of the 1990s until peaking in fiscal 2000. However, the figure has been declining ever since.
Meanwhile, the number of foreign researchers who come to Japan to conduct research or studies for similar durations has been hovering at around 13,000 over the past decade, the ministry said.
Kan pledges support
Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Thursday promised Eiichi Negishi, one of the recipients of this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry, that the government will support young scientists and may possibly allocate part of the state budget to foster future Nobelists.
Kan said he told U.S.-based Negishi during their phone conversation that he hoped the Nobel Prize would be a “great opportunity to stimulate more drive among young people in science and technology.”
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