(Panoramic View Reports)
Panoramic View of the System Science and Technology Field (2013)/CRDS-FY2012-FR-05
Executive Summary

Systems science & technology is a body of basic knowledge for building desired systems and a collection of technical method for achieving the objectives concerning systems construction. This is an extremely broad area of research that has a point of contact with all areas of science & technology, in terms of systems and common ground, in terms of processes involved in developing a system, which transcends the specificity of individual systems. Based on this common ground, we extracted five broad categories of research areas which are either established research areas or in its process of developments; namely, “Decision making & risk management,” “Modeling,” “Control,” “Optimization,” and “Network theory.” Based on these five research areas together with “System construction methodology,” which reconfigures them, we set out six study categories and carried out, by means of subjective evaluation by experts, international comparison of technological capabilities of various countries for each research area.

As systems science & technology is an area whose main theme of study is concerned with the relationship between the system as a whole and its components including humans, the discipline inherently involves a strong orientation toward integration of various research areas that are specific to each component. At the same time, as the concept manipulation in the model space is the main form of research & development, mathematical capability is indispensable for the reseach. Therefore, abstraction and universality are considered important. However, on the other hand, it is an extremely practical area where it is considered important that the research & development should result in actual installation of the system in society. It also is an immature area containing many unexplored fields and issues. In particular, systems science & technology is an area that can be completed only when basic research and application studies are integrated. By promoting systems science & technology, we can not only overcome various weaknesses of Japanese science & technology arising from study on components being carried out in an uncoordinated fashion and people’s failure to take advantage of the results effectively, but also induce the dynamism of Japanese science & technology towards creation of socio-economic values through science & technology; i.e., realization of innovation.

The following are typical features of technological capabilities of respective countries.

Compared with other countries, importance of systems science & technology is not recognized well, and there is not much national interest either. As there is not even an academic society in some areas, there is a wide variation of levels of interest.
Traditionally, Japan has strength in game theory, mathematical modeling, and optimization theory. For risk assessment, in many cases, it is closed inside the business. Multiagent-based social simulation and modeling is as advanced as in the western countries; and industrial application is strongly promoted in such areas as SNS and Web. Although the researchers are not many, basic research on data assimilation and data mining in meteorology & oceanology is at the highest level in the world. With respect to control, Japan has a track record of industrial application predating the US and Europe in such areas as steel, automobiles, robots, and chemical plants.

Especially in energy and environmental problems, it is pointed out by many that systematization is a weak point in Japan. It is becoming a common view that reestablishing the foundations of industrial competitiveness must be approached from aspects of system construction.

The US maintains predominance in terms of the number of academic research institutions, human resources engaging in research, and the number of research products. As inflow of international students and postdoctoral scholars from China and Korea is steadily growing, it is thought that in the future there will be many researchers who would bring back highly advanced knowledge to their home countries. Awareness toward practical application is high even in basic research; they are not only trying hard to apply advanced technology to the industrial world, but also vigorously trying to identify new issues/areas by, for example, participating in business consulting. Many management staffs have science or engineering backgrounds, so that they have a good understanding of systems science & technology. Social implementation of new research products is positively promoted in various scenes.

Traditionally, they have been active in application basic research to aerospace/military areas and emphasizing such research themes. On the other hand, since they have also introduced stepped-up budgetary measures to promote such new areas like communication, non-centralized operation, demand response, and large-scale/network control, that are required for computer networking and smart grid, substantial research products are being produced in these areas.

Graduates from discrete mathematics/computer science areas are finding jobs mainly in such firms as IBM, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google. In addition, major social media such as facebook originated from the US, so that research & development by those researchers/engineers has also been active.

Development of algorithms and simulators using cutting-edge mathematical modeling technology is actively carried out at corporate institutes and the navy, and are put to practical use in the form of software, at many IT firms, manufacturers, and financial institutions. Mathematical modeling of cancer, gene/protein networks, and cell/immune systems with an eye to application in pharmaceuticals/healthcare is also actively undertaken. In addition, large-scale modeling research reproducing actual society in the virtual world; for example, implementation of a million-agent model in a distributed computing environment, is progressing.

In general, Europe is a little bit less advanced than the US.

Europe is, for example, the world’s center of risk theory research in finance and insurance area, making them as advanced as the US in terms of basic and application research. However, they lag behind the US in the field of industrial application.

They are strong in such areas as financial regulation in terms of research and social implementation. The complex systems model developed by Max Planck Institute is highly recognized and application is being undertaken in various areas, including state administration. Standardization scheme of simulation modeling is advanced, possibly because of regional characteristics. With respect to advanced control technology, they are engaging in basic & seed research, and are developing industrial-purpose predictive control software targeting a wide range of systems. They are actively undertaking industrialization of non-centralized operation/distribution control of social infrastructure; and, with respect to implementation of sensor networks and information security measures for electric power system, vigorously undertaking a broad spectrum of research ranging from the basic level to the application level in a proactive manner.

The government and public corporations as well as businesses are collaborating to actively apply systems science & technology to such areas as transportation policy, finance, energy, manufacturing, environment, agriculture, IT, and healthcare, and promote a solution by carrying out large-scale calculation. Collection and analysis of social network data via mobile phone is also progressing. This is expected to find application to transportation at the time of disaster, marketing, control of infectious disease, etc.

They are undertaking their research following the trend of other countries so that in many areas, they have not produced many results with high originality. However, number of research papers and working papers by Chinese (or ethnic Chinese) are increasing. In addition, it is expected that researchers of younger generation who have established themselves in foreign countries and gone back to their home country would produce high quality research products in the future. These days, a number of international conferences come to be held at the initiative of Chinese researchers, centering on Beijing and Shanghai. China’s systems science & technology is led by the “Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science” and “Institute of Automation” established within the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Research budget in the area of mathematics is rapidly increasing. As research centers have been established at 300 universities for the purpose of training experts in mathematical theory, the level of mathematical study has been significantly upgraded.

As energy, transport, and environmental problems are becoming more serious with the growth of the economy, there is a growing tendency to place importance on new problem solving methods such as mathematical modeling and optimization of actual phenomena.

Low-carbon economic development is set out as one of policy target and, recently, a novel model has been developed out by Chinese researchers. Actively participating in international model comparative studies, the presence of China is increasingly recognized.

Leading American & European companies such as Microsoft Research have established cutting-edge research institutes specializing in machine learning and information processing technology, producing high-quality research products.

As demonstrated by the fact that China once became the world top rank in super computers, research products in the form of application of basic research are also steadily increasing in the area of large-scale computation.

The number of research papers by Korean or ethnic Korean researchers is increasing. Disclosure of research information is not sufficient, and, at this point of time, they are not participating in international comparative studies in a proactive manner.

With respect to basic/application study of applied statistics, they have an advantage over Japan. Traditionally, Korea has strength in research on predictive control of linear systems. Experimental study of smart grid using dispersed power sources and intra-vehicle LAN are typical systems where networked control is actually used. As the automobile industry is growing, further development is expected.
Study on engineered multi-agent systems such as collaborative learning issues and collaborative evolutionary learning is widely undertaken.

A large portion of statistical physicists are engaging in network study. For this reason, more basic research products are published in senior academic journals than in Japan.