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The number of papers produced in Japan has remained almost unchanged in recent years, but its ranking has been falling as other countries are publishing more.

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An education ministry official. Japan has fallen outside the top 10 ranking of nations with the most highly cited scientific papers after being overtaken by Spain and South Korea.

© Asahi Shimbun

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Perhaps the difference is that, often when Japan publishes a 'paper', it's not rare for that 'paper' to complete revolutionize its area of study. This has been true in physics, biology, electronics, and other areas and has been true for a couple of generations. Papers can be cited because the data contained simply backs up previously known but incompletely established data. A better measure than "papers cited" might be the number of citations per paper which is a good measure of the 'quality' of the work rather than the just the quantity of work being done. Also, redirection of research into 'profitable' research as opposed to basic research might also show a larger number of reports because basic research is much more difficult than that which prioritizes already explored pathways just adding details. And examining the number of Japanese reports cited in those, now, "more cited" reports might show the truth of Japanese contributions to our understanding of this place we all find ourselves in. And, as an example, one is almost certainly reading these reports by the 'light' of Japanese 'science' (see: Nakamura Shuji, Akasaki Isamu , Amano Hiroshi). Me? Nihon kabure? Maybe...

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Even the number of citations isn't necessarily a good mark of relevance though given that a paper can be cited to demonstrate it's wrong.

A more qualitative assessment of scientific research would be best.

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In Japan, many researchers still think it's better to publish in domestic (Japanese language) academic journals. These will never be highly cited compared to papers published in international journals...

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I agree with fallafel's comments. In addition, sometimes Japanese reviewers of a paper submitted for publication in a Japanese language journal tend to be hesitant to point out problems or errors, because they are afraid of causing offense, which can cause them professional trouble later. In contrast, reviewers for journals that publish in English can sometimes be quite ruthless in their questions and pointing out weaknesses in the submitted paper. That makes it difficult for the authors to present their findings, but does tend to lead to good science.

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The problem was defined by an article in The Japan Times a few years ago. The central problem, the Times said, is that Japanese publish little academic / scientific in English, the international scholastic language . Papers have to be published in English in order to be counted internationally. South Korea and China have risen above Japan because they have mastered English in way that Japanese scholar largely have not.

There are indeed Japanese scholars whose English is excellent, but there is not enough of them.

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Perhaps the difference is that, often when Japan publishes a 'paper', it's not rare for that 'paper' to complete revolutionize its area of study.

It has been decades this is not happening, it is extremely rare for any truly revolutionary report to come from Japan by any well recognized standard. This has a lot to do with the government that has systematically opposed the development of science and keeps reducing the number and amount of grants (except in the last two years for infectious diseases for obvious reasons). Universities see no benefit on promoting scientific discoveries either, which help explaining how they are also very low on the rankings.

And as a top there is a very poor culture of control and vigilance of senior researchers, causing a lot of unethical behavior, in the retraction watch ranking of authors with more retractions the top 10 have 5 Japanese authors, including the infamous first place Yoshitaka Fujii with almost 200 papers retracted.

A Japanese scholar does not have to speak English or any other language. They just need to use a good translator.

Unless they plan to have a translator for every of the dozen or so papers a scientist have to read every day just to be current in his field, any scholar requires to know English. To publish they can use an English editing service, but that will not help getting a paper to a first tier journal without outstanding methods and results.

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So they are making discoveries and not writing them down and sharing it? Or are they not making enough discoveries?

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The citation rank isn't a good guide to quality research, but as the lazy admin's go-to guide for league tables and grants, it casts a long shadow.

As many research papers in the sciences or humanities are borderline unreadable to anyone who is not au fait with abstruse jargon, getting academic papers translated well enough can be very difficult. A translator needs an understanding of the field, the specialist terms and of the paper to stand any chance of translating it adequately.

Japan is the G7 nation with the most landlocked minority language, by some distance. Hardly anyone outside Japan who is not Japanese or a student of Japanese culture, understands it. That makes it more akin to Welsh than French or German. Pandemic isolation and the tourist ban has made things worse. As Japan vanishes from the public eye, language units in universities are more likely to drop Japanese in favour of those more popular with young people. It's not just Japan's tourist revenue that South Korea is taking. The Korean wave has made the Korean language and culture, globally trendy.

As virusrex infers, the language of international scholarship defaults to English for anything expecting a global reach. However much that annoys the French, and gives undue weighting to lousy papers in English (of which there are many), keeping up in most subjects requires a working knowledge of English.

The nature of traditional societies, demanding respect for the status quo, rather than urging young people to challenge and provoke established views or senior professors, is always going to work against Japanese academic rankings.

The Japanese response to such problems may all too often be to reinforce the bubble, look inwards, and build a cosy domestic nest, ignoring the world outside. It's like a cultural drug - the belief that Japan has attained a safe, comfortable point of perfect stasis, and that if tomorrow is just like yesterday, all will be well. So rocking the boat, which is fundamental to academic research, is frowned upon. As with all drugs, it feels great, but there is an accumulative price to pay. And things rarely end well.

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 Pandemic isolation and the tourist ban has made things worse. As Japan vanishes from the public eye, language units in universities are more likely to drop Japanese in favour of those more popular with young people. It's not just Japan's tourist revenue that South Korea is taking. The Korean wave has made the Korean language and culture, globally trendy.

As virusrex infers, the language of international scholarship defaults to English for anything expecting a global reach. However much that annoys the French, and gives undue weighting to lousy papers in English (of which there are many), keeping up in most subjects requires a working knowledge of English.

The nature of traditional societies, demanding respect for the status quo, rather than urging young people to challenge and provoke established views or senior professors, is always going to work against Japanese academic rankings.

> The Japanese response to such problems may all too often be to reinforce the bubble, look inwards, and build a cosy domestic nest, ignoring the world outside. It's like a cultural drug - the belief that Japan has attained a safe, comfortable point of perfect stasis, and that if tomorrow is just like yesterday, all will be well. So rocking the boat, which is fundamental to academic research, is frowned upon. As with all drugs, it feels great, but there is an accumulative price to pay. And things rarely end well.

Probably the best post I have read in a LONG time. My hat off to you sir.

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