An analysis of international collaboration patterns in Japan

Japan has a rich and diverse academic environment with more than 3,400 research organisations and companies, contributing to more than 1.8m research publications since the turn of the millennium. The country’s long history of education, research and innovation, dates back to the establishment of the University of Tokyo in 1877.

However, despite the country’s clear interest and prowess in research, it remains, perhaps due to cultural heritage magnified by geographical location, one of the more isolated research economies. Since the financial crisis in 2008, Japan has had to be more measured in its investment into research, which has slowed the research economy.

In a new report, we have used Digital Science’s Dimensions database, together with a filter of high-quality journals provided by Nature Index’s journal list, to explore the international collaboration patterns in Japan, and see how the country fares in the global evolution in collaboration.

Quality over quantity?

Risks and Opportunities

While a lot of the developed research economies have seen a transition from most of their publication output being domestic (only institutions within the country participating on the paper) to international (at least one institutional affiliation on the paper associated outside the country), Japan has not moved as quickly.

The Australian, British, Canadian, Dutch, French, German and New Zealand output all crossed from domestic-dominated to international-dominated between 2010 and 2015, Italy and Spain will clearly join this group in the next 3-5 years.  In the fast-growing research economies, such as Brazil, India and China, we see domestic publication rates outpacing and diverging from international collaboration.

This makes sense due to the level of internal investment and the ability of any research economy to be sufficiently porous to research collaborations.  Only the US and Japan amongst the world economies continue to see sustained dominance of domestic publication, as figure three illustrates below.

If we extract the strongest research relationships that Japan has fostered over the last decade and examine how strongly Japan’s research collaborators work with each other, an interesting plot emerges (Figure 5).

The indicators show a positive future for Japan if the leadership of top researchers can cascade down to the broader research population and make Japan much more outward bound in its research collaboration landscape. If this is supported by funders with innovative approaches to funding and incentivising Japan’s increased engagement and visibility on the world research stage then Japan looks forward to a prosperous and important place in the global knowledge economy.

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