Futuribles has devoted much space in the last year to the problems of research, and in particular its organization. In a recent article (n° 306, March 2005), Catherine Paradeise and Jean-Claude Thoenig argued that it is essential to consult everyone involved in the research system and to explain to them, step by step if necessary, the need for changes in the hopes that the reform might then be carried through, with particular reference to France.
We continue the debate on this question with an article describing the Japanese experience of reforming their research system. Michel Israël shows how the Japanese radically overhauled their system by means of several five-year plans. Above all, he highlights the current major reform of the national universities which affects their method of hiring to research posts; partnerships between universities, industry and government; the creation of centres of excellence, etc. Key words here are competition, autonomy, releasing creativity and more flexible management. He also describes how this reform, which aims to restore Japan as a leader in research internationally, has been welcomed and implemented by the main players involved. The reform may not yet be completed, but it is well under way; it remains to be seen what its impact will be on Japan's performance in research in the next few years.