The Honorable Sadakazu Tanigaki
Getting your money's worth from research and development is an extremely current issue. Policymakers of science and technology are always thinking about this, and lay people have great concern about it also. I would like to discuss four things:
Japan's economy, which grew smoothly after the Second World War, is now in a very severe economic situation. During these challenging times, the Hashimoto Administration is tackling the reforms necessary to build the nation's foundations toward the 21st century. He is reviewing the socioeconomic system completely. Without these reforms, Japan may not be able to enjoy a prosperous 21st century. With regard to the economy, a stimulus package worth more than 16 trillion yen ($120 billion U.S.) is underway. It is the largest ever in scale and directed toward the expansion of domestic consumption. One of its emphases is on renewing and renovating social fundamentals. One trillion yen will be allocated to promoting science and technology and advancing information and telecommunication systems. The promotion of science and technology, which leads the structural reform of Japan's economy, will also benefit the world's economy. At the same time, development of Japan's R&D infrastructure will be accelerated. In other words, Japan's R&D environment will be improved. This is essential to invigorate our society and economy.
Japan's Commitment to Science and Technology
Science and technology is an everlasting source of development, and it ensures the well-being of mankind. Japan's policy is to be a science and technology oriented nation. To achieve this, the Science and Technology Basic Law was enacted by supra-partisan Diet members in 1995. The law was initiated by politicians backing science and technology who discussed the nature of the promotion in order to create a national consensus. The Basic Law now plays a very important role in promoting science and technology.
According to this law and the Science and Technology Basic Plan called for by the law, the government plans to invest a total of 17 trillion yen over five years from FY 1996 through FY 2000. Although this is a very difficult goal to reach, I will make every effort to attain it. Actually, for FY 1998, science and technology promotion received an increase of five percent over the previous year while other major items had zero or below zero figures.
With R&D as a whole, it is necessary to take a balanced approach between basic and applied research. The Japanese government emphasizes information technology and the life sciences. Information will be the foundation of society in the 21st century. Life sciences elucidate and utilize various functions of living things. The time is rapidly coming when that elucidation will fall within our reach. These are two substantial fields that will support our future society. Using a supplementary budget, the government will accelerate research on the genome and the brain, as well as the development of optical fiber networks for R&D. The government will also expedite renovating research environments for leading-edge academic research.
When proceeding with these R&D activities, it is necessary to consider ethics and the environment. For example, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted a general declaration on human rights and the human genome last November. In Japan, the Council for Science and Technology, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, formed a committee on bioethics to study these matters. And in the area of nuclear power, we feel it is essential to consider how managing radioactive waste will affect our environment. While carrying out R&D, we are required to give deep consideration to the "shadows" that accompany the "light" of scientific and technological progress.
Japan's New Approach to R&D
Would you like to come to Japan to carry out your research? A lot of distinguished participants may say, "No, it is too far. It would not be enjoyable. The research community there is not interesting and living expenses are high." Younger scientists may reply, "No, I have more attractive job opportunities here in the United States." This is not a good situation. I would like to hear the voices from abroad saying, "The research in Japan is exciting! Don't miss it!" In this regard, I put emphasis on the development of new R&D resources as well as the research environment.
Japan wants to lead international fundamental research in science and technology. We are building large facilities and opening up research opportunities to overseas researchers. R&D activities now require state-of-the-art facilities. Spring-8, the largest synchrotron light source in the world, and Mirai, the ocean and Earth research vessel, are good examples. National research institutes are open to foreign researchers and have term appointments instead of lifetime employment. The government is making the R&D environment more attractive by using new ideas to tackle problems that conventional opinion said were difficult. It also plans to include at least one foreign researcher per research unit in Japan. Some leading experts are calling for foreign researchers to make up one-third of the total number. I, too, support increasing the number of researchers from overseas.
The institutional framework of science and technology administration is one of the main points in the administrative reform that the government is working on. The Council on Arts and Science and Technology will be established to strengthen planning and formulation of basic policy direction in every corner of science and technology, as well as in the arts and humanities.
The Science and Technology Agency (STA) and the Ministry of Education (Monbusho), which is responsible for education and university research, will be integrated into one body. From this, we expect tighter cooperative ties among R&D organizations. Some people are concerned that the top-down or goal-oriented approach taken by STA may hurt liberal university research. Instead, I would like to make this integration have positive effects on university research as a result of our ability to take an approach that integrates the full scope of science and technology.
Another big issue is the review of national research institutes and the establishment of centers of excellence. Japan largely depends on universities to carry out public R&D activities. It has been requested that we form research organizations that will investigate basic areas of research, tackling them with a comprehensive approach that relates to various academic fields. This could expand our contribution to the world community of science and technology.
Science, Technology, and Society
Science and technology is closely linked to society. It has the power to drastically change people's lives. Scientists and engineers have to keep this in mind when carrying out their R&D activities. It is indispensable that the government work hard to gain people's understanding and gain their support for the promotion of science and technology. This requires an appropriate supply of information to meet the demands of the people. Unfortunately, Japan has not been an honor student in this regard. At present, a study is underway on access to information on governmental activities. It is important that science and technology information, some of which tends to be technical, is properly understood and judged. The role of education is huge. It is also critical that we increase the number of "interpreters," those who are able to explain matters of science and technology in a simple and correct manner.
In Japan, ill-affected or unstable juveniles are of great social concern. I hear you have similar social problems with juvenile crimes, such as shooting incidents at schools. I uoderstand these issues could be the epitome of the stagnant situation in adult society. There is no quick remedy for this; it seems appropriate to take a steady approach. We need to encourage young people to be a part of and to contribute to society.
Capturing youth's attention is a difficult challenge all over the world. Although there is concern about the declining popularity of science and technology among the young, science and technology was originally one of the few fields that could attract the young. It is no exaggeration to say that human beings have no future without cultivating children's intellectual curiosity and dreams about the frontiers of science and technology, and fostering their minds to actively challenge novel matters. In this regard, we anticipate that various events and ideas such as Dr. Doi's spacewalk from the space shuttle and the proposed Robolympics (a large international festival on robots planned for 2001 in Japan) will give young people wider visions.
Another huge connection between society and science and technology is in environmental issues. Last December, Japan hosted the COP3 meeting on global climate change in Kyoto; Vice President Gore attended from the United States. Kyoto is my constituency, and I am personally pleased with the meeting's success and its social significance. To achieve the goal set at COP3, the role of science and technology is of great importance in developing innovative technologies and providing data on global climate change prediction and so on.
The steady promotion of development and utilization of nuclear power is particularly needed in Japan, from the view point of the environment in addition to that of resources. Japan can reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, and thereby decrease its emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Specifically, with a view to establishing a nuclear fuel cycle, the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation will be drastically changed and rebuilt as the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Development Organization, an institution we hope will gain the trust of the people and meet the expectations of international society.
Japan-U.S. Cooperation and Global Partnership
In the development of science and technology, competition sometimes played a key role. But in our present age cooperation under a global partnership produces greater results because the subjects are more advanced and more complex. The national interests of each country are becoming the same. For example, the Human Frontier Science Program, in which Japan took the lead, is a unique multinational program for promoting international research cooperation in the biosciences of interdisciplinary nature. It has been accumulating great results. Three of its grant awardees were honored with the 1997 Nobel Prizes for Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, and Physics.
Japan-U.S. relations in science and technology are the most powerful ones for Japan. The following are a few successful Japan-U.S. collaborations:
I would like to strengthen our collaborative relationship with the United States and expand this relationship into a global one, welcoming other countries' participation.
Earlier this year, Japan hosted the Winter Olympic Games in Nagano. You probably saw Japan's beautiful mountains on television. Like many other Japanese people, I enjoy mountain climbing. I feel that the process of heading for the summit, starting from a period of careful preparation, is similar to the exploration of the frontiers of science and technology. The secret to successful climbing is in three steps. First, set a concrete goal. Second, complete the necessary preparation after a thorough study of various conditions such as weather, climate, and ground surfaces. Finally, while you are climbing, take such steps as the occasion demands, accurately grasping the circumstances while taking care of teamwork. This will lead you to the mountaintop, and you will be struck by the wide scenery that comes into full view.
I would like to keep the above process in mind when promoting science and technology. First, set an objective, for example, solving the global as those on the environment, energy and food issue. Second, provide the necessary R&D resources. Third, implement R&D, always fully understanding the surrounding environment of science and technology from the people's viewpoint, as well as the social demand. Through this process I hope to obtain useful results for humankind.
The Honorable Sadakazu Tanigaki is minister of state for science and technology for Japan. This article is based on remarks delivered at the 23rd Annual AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy, held April 29May 1, 1998, in Washington, DC.