The Japan Science and Technology Agency last month reported that only 64% of almost 9,000 surveyed Japanese scientists communicate results outside the scientific community. This is surprising: since 2010, the government has urged the researchers it funds to improve communication with the tax-paying public — particularly after the March 2011 tsunami and nuclear accident at Fukushima.

Of the 36% of researchers who did not participate in outreach, many cited administrative overload and a lack of resources and time. The biggest issue among these scientists was that they felt there was no personal advantage in communicating their results to the public. This is because researcher performance in Japan is evaluated solely on the number of journal publications, so time and effort spent on science communication will not help scientists to secure funding, promotion or employment.

The government needs to recognize that scientific outreach activities are valid experiences for funding and job applications. Japan's researchers, in turn, should recognize that communicating with the public provides its own reward in the form of society's acknowledgement of their work.