Sitting in the advisory board of National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo with my colleagues (CEO/directors of majore national research labs in France, Germany, Holland, and Thailand) and listening to their perspectives has strengthened my belief that things definitely work differently in USA compared to many other countries.
NII has a very strong research program and is definitely one of the most exciting research places. Many research projects here are of world level. In my own research area, Shin’ichi Sato is doing very good work on video retrieval, concept detection in video, face recognition and related areas. In many other areas the work is exciting. I liked the research directions in what they call 3D internet and some aspects related to detecting emotions in text and endowing these emotions to avatars in virtual world.
It is clear, however, that research is quite conservative. Most research problems are the problems that become popular elsewhere before they are pursued by researchers here. I did not see any research project that suggested that somebody is adopting a new perspective or is addressing a new problem.
Similarly, it appears that there is some lip-service to working with industry and thinking of start-up but there are neither processes to encourage this not there is any environment to make this happen. Interestingly, most advisory board members seemed to be saying that this is somehow possible in USA but does not happen at other places so one should not worry much about this. I also found it surprising that in the society that believes in social harmony and social connections, in NII much emphasis is on making physical netwroks efficient but I did not hear any exciting research in use of Social Networks. The land of mobile phones, did not have any exciting research projects in this direction also.
It does appear that the research problems and research directions in USA are usually more aggressive and bold. But then, even in USA most universities are as conservative as NII researchers here and many academicians at strong universities will never think os doing ‘applied research’ till a new field of applied research creates many interesting ‘basic research’ directions. I guess, the situation is usually that of the drunk man under the lamp post — that I posted here recently.