Significance of "Technology Standardization" under Science and Technology Policy Evaluation: On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first meeting to establish the measurement of science and innovation activities

TAMURA Suguru
Senior Fellow, RIETI

This year marks the 50th anniversary of a 1963 meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) experts in the Italian city of Frascati, where a document to set forth a basic methodology for collecting scientific and technological statistics, better known as the "Frascati Manual," was compiled. This column discusses the significance of the manual, formally called the "Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys on Research and Experimental Development" (OECD 2002), and related issues that need to be addressed in the future. I will explain how technology standardization has been positioned under the context of science and technology-related policy evaluation, and I will point out the future issues to be addressed, while analyzing the current situation surrounding it.

Introduction

A basic framework for measuring research and development data used in connection with the crafting of science technology policy is shown in the OECD-set guidelines of the Frascati Manual, which was named after the Roman suburb where an international conference to compile the guidelines was held a half-century ago.

The significance of scientific technology is increasingly being recognized in many countries, where governments are providing financial support for scientific advancement. In Japan, enormous state subsidies have been provided to research projects, based on the government's past four Science and Technology Basic Plans. Research and development projects and technology policies that are eligible for the subsidies are subject to policy evaluation. Indexes used for measuring the input and output of a particular science project play an important role in its policy evaluation.

However, the importance of each index varies according to changes in social conditions. Therefore, taking this into account is necessary to craft a policy evaluation framework. We should carefully choose the indexes to be used to evaluate scientific and technological achievements, and the indexes that are considered to be necessary should constantly be reviewed. Using as many indexes as possible for data collection, for example, is unrealistic as the costs are likely to surpass the expected benefits. Therefore, if new indexes are employed, data-collection methods for them also need to be developed.

Need to respond to changes in the nature of innovation

Activities deemed to be related strongly to science and technology have been classified as "Science Activities" in the process of compiling science and technology indexes in the past. Meanwhile, activities that are related, although not strongly, to science and technology have been classified as "Science Related Activities (SRA)." Therefore, SRA-classified activities have not been treated as science and technology input data. (Godin 2001)

Under these circumstances, activities related to technology standardization have been classified as SRA. The Frascati Manual mainly sets forth data measurement methods for "Science Activities." No methods related to activities on technology standardization are mentioned in the manual, but the fruits of innovations in technology standardization are now seen in various sections of society. Therefore, it would be meaningful to treat such activities as "Science Activities" and gauge their effects from the viewpoint of Japan's science policy. With technology standardization likely to have a significant effect on companies' innovation activities, treating related activities as "Science Activities" rather than SRA would be considerable.

With society becoming more digitalized, important changes have occurred on various fronts within society, a trend also backed by the advancement of technology standardization. On the manufacturing front, for example, more products previously treated as components are now sold as finished products. This trend has affected broader areas of the product market, ranging from parts procurement to product assembly. In addition, many products surrounding us have been developed based on the assumption to be used via digital networking systems. In view of the rapid digitalization of society, technology standardization is likely to have a further impact on our society and is also expected to play a larger role in product innovation.

Representing the academic community, the Science Council of Japan is interested in building and operating a scientific data system, mainly based on the Frascati Manual. The council sees such a system as an important basic tool for efficient allocation of science-related human resources and expenditures, and has proposed further advancement of the data system. (Science Council of Japan 2011) In addition, there are moves to position technology standardization as an index for evaluating the results of innovation projects. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States is among the entities making such efforts. (Tassey 2003)

Conclusion

Technology standardization has a long history, but little discussion has taken place about how related activities should be measured. People have yet to recognize it as an issue to be addressed, which may be contrary to their general expectations. Activities related to technology standardization are one of the issues that have yet to be examined fully since the discussion on the measurement of science statistics began in Frascati, Italy, 50 years ago. Over this period, technology standardization has not played a significant role in technological innovation, but it is likely to become an important issue in the next 50 years for academic associations dealing with science and innovation policies, government sections in charge of the issue around the world, and the industrial community.

August 13, 2013
Reference(s)
  • OECD (2002), "Frascati Manual 2002: Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys on Research and Experimental Development," Paris.
  • Godin, B. (2001), "Neglected Scientific Activities: The (non) Measurement of Related Scientific Activities," OST, Montreal.
  • Science Council of Japan (2011), "Teigen: Gakujutsu Tokei no Seibi to Katsuyo ni Mukete (Proposition: Toward the Establishment of Methodology for Academic Statistics and Utilization)," Tokyo. (in Japanese)
  • Tassey, G. (2003), "Method for Assessing the Economic Impacts of Government R&D," National Institute of Standards & Technology, Gaithersburg.

August 13, 2013

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