Skip to main content

U.S.-Japan Research Collaboration Relies on New and Existing Relationships

Japan delegation
AAAS hosted a delegation composed of members of the Japanese parliament, the private sector, U.S. and Japan-based physicists in academia and the Japanese embassy on May 1 to discuss collaboration on the International Linear Collider. | Neil Orman/AAAS

Advancing scientific collaboration between the United States and Japan can be furthered by exploring new opportunities for students and broadening existing relationships among organizations, according to a panel of experts who spoke at AAAS headquarters.

“Digital Innovation Through International Research Collaboration: Prospects for U.S.-Japan Research Collaboration,” held May 11, was part of the monthly Colloquium Series offered by AAAS to explore timely topics relevant to science and society. The event was co-organized by AAAS, the Embassy of Japan, the Japan Science and Technology Agency and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization.

The session focused on partnerships on data sciences and cybersecurity – a timely concern, according to moderator William Colglazier, senior scholar in the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy and editor-in-chief of Science & Diplomacy. Colglazier cited a recent issue of The Economist that deemed data “the world’s most valuable resource.”

Successful research collaboration “starts with people,” according to Jim Kurose, assistant director of the National Science Foundation in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering.

Scientists are increasingly interested in collaborating internationally to expand their access to other researchers’ expertise, use facilities and share data or tackle transnational challenges, Kurose said, adding, “We want to enable researchers who see exciting activities to come together and find their opportunities for collaboration.”

“Students really need to be at the center of the collaboration,” he said.

Several universities in Japan are ensuring that students play a role in international collaboration in the data sciences. Nagoya University’s Graduate School of Informatics recently restructured to better collaborate with industry, said Kazuya Takeda, a professor at the university. Ph.D. students are encouraged to form startup “micro-ventures” based on their particular research expertise, whether it be artificial intelligence or software platforms. The micro-ventures, which together form a comprehensive research entity, work individually with companies, he said.

The program complements the university’s existing international relationships, including a partnership with Ohio State University’s Translational Data Analytics program. The partnership, which includes a global faculty exchange program, has also had a joint funding proposal accepted by Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, Takeda said.

“We have different areas and targets, but we share the idea of interdisciplinary research promotion,” Takeda said.

Another Japanese university, Kyushu University, has partnered with the University of Maryland Baltimore County since 2014 on cybersecurity research and education, added Hiroto Yasuura, professor of information science and electrical engineering at Kyushu University.

Existing research partnerships among governments, industry and academia in the United States can also be broadened to include international partners, said Tina Williams, who serves as the University of Maryland’s cybersecurity academic innovation officer for the National Institute of Standards and Technology National Cybersecurity Center for Excellence.

The center, the first federally funded research and development program to focus on cybersecurity at the national level, works to develop cybersecurity guidelines for a range of industries and spur implementation of those guidelines. The center does not currently include international partners, yet it leaves open the possibility to leverage international partnerships cultivated by individual participating universities, Williams noted.

Universities play an important role in international research collaboration, providing forward-looking input to thought l industry, Williams said.

Organizations like AAAS can also play a role in cultivating research partnerships between the United States and Japan. Rush Holt, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals, met May 1 with a delegation that included members of the Japanese parliament, the private sector, U.S. and Japan-based physicists in academia and the Japanese embassy in support of the International Linear Collider, a proposed linear particle accelerator that would be located in northern Japan – which Holt called “a major opportunity for collaboration.”

The participants discussed the complexity of the project – not just scientifically, but financially and politically.

“The ILC requires international collaboration, and without it, there are boundaries of knowledge in particle physics that we simply won’t be able to cross,” said Julia MacKenzie, AAAS director of international relations.