This report is one in a series of reports prepared through the Japanese Technology Evaluation Center (JTEC), sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and administered by Loyola College in Maryland. The report describes research and development efforts in Japan in the area of expert systems, also called knowledge-based systems.

Over the past decade, the United States' competitive position in world markets for high-technology products appears to have eroded substantially. As U.S. technological leadership is challenged, many government and private organizations seek to set policies that will help maintain U.S. competitive strengths. To do this effectively requires an understanding of the relative position of the United States and its competitors. Indeed, whether our goal is competition or cooperation, we must improve our access to scientific and technical information in other countries.

Although many U.S. organizations support substantial data gathering and analysis directed at other nations, the government and privately sponsored studies that are in the public domain tend to be "input" studies. That is, they measure expenditures, personnel data, and facilities but do not assess the quality or quantity of the outputs obtained. Studies of the outputs of the research and development process are more difficult to perform since they require a subjective analysis by individuals who are experts in the relevant technical fields.

The National Science Foundation staff includes professionals with expertise in a wide range of technologies. These individuals have the technical expertise to assemble panels of experts who can perform competent, unbiased, scientific and technical reviews of research and development activities. Further, a principal activity of the Foundation is the review and selection for funding of research proposals. Thus the Foundation has both experience and credibility in this process. The JTEC activity builds on this capability.

Specific technologies, such as displays, telecommunications, or biotechnology, are selected for study by individuals in government agencies that are able to contribute to the funding of the study. A typical assessment is sponsored by two or more agencies. In cooperation with the sponsoring agencies, NSF selects a panel of experts who will conduct the study. Administrative oversight of the panel is provided by Loyola College in Maryland, which operates JTEC under an NSF grant.

Panelists are selected for their expertise in specific areas of technology and their broad knowledge of research and development in both the United States and in Japan. Of great importance is the panelists' ability to produce a comprehensive, informed and unbiased report. Most panelists have travelled previously to Japan or have professional associations with their expert counterparts in Japan. Nonetheless, as part of the assessment, the panel as a whole travels to Japan to spend at least one week visiting research and development sites and meeting with researchers. These trips have proven to be highly informative, and the panelists have been given broad access to both researchers and facilities. Upon completion of its trip, the panel conducts a one-day workshop to present its findings. Following the workshop, the panel completes its written report.

Study results are widely distributed. Representatives of Japan and members of the media are invited to attend the workshops. Final reports are made available through the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). Further publication of results is encouraged in the professional society journals and magazines. Articles derived from earlier JTEC studies have appeared in Science, IEEE Spectrum, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and others. Additional distribution media, including videotapes, are being tested.

Over the years, the assessment reports have provided input into the policy making process of many agencies and organizations. Many of the reports are used by foreign governments and corporations. Indeed, the Japanese have used JTEC reports to their advantage, as the reports provide an independent assessment attesting to the quality of Japan's research.

The methodology developed and applied to the study of research and development in Japan has now been shown to be equally relevant to Europe and to other leading industrial nations. In general, the United States can benefit from a better understanding of cutting-edge research that is being conducted outside its borders. Improved awareness of international developments can significantly enhance the scope and effectiveness of international collaboration and thus benefit all our international partners in joint research and development efforts.

Paul J. Herer
National Science Foundation
Washington, DC

Published: May 1993; WTEC Hyper-Librarian