Message from the President: On the Appointment of the Members of the Science Council of Japan

October 12, 2020

On the Appointment of the Members of the Science Council of Japan

Recently, six candidates out of those scientists who were presented by the Science Council of Japan (SCJ) to the Prime Minister were not appointed, for which the Council has been given no clear explanation. The confusion caused by this action has greatly weakened the very foundations of science upon which a civilized nation is built. As representative of the University of Tokyo which has contributed significantly to the advancement of science, I express my concern as well as my renewed awareness of my duty to restore the trust.

The Council was established under the Act on the Science Council of Japan as the representative organization for scientists in Japan which “contributes to the welfare of humanity and scientific progress in collaboration with global academia.” The Council operates independently of the government, for the purpose of promoting and enhancing science, and to have science reflected in and permeate administration, industry and people’s lives. Its functions include submitting proposals related to inquiries from the government concerning the promotion of science and providing recommendations of policies and measures to advance and leverage science. As a former Council member, I myself have been involved in the online publishing of academic journals and the promotion of optical science, and I have experienced that discussions on cooperation with a wide range of people, including in the public and private sectors, have greatly contributed to problem solving and to the improvement of research capabilities in this field.

The political and economic situation around the world is changing rapidly. There have emerged several occasions where the value of science is ignored. In this situation, the role of organizations which promote collaboration across academic fields and bring diverse academia and society together becomes ever more important globally. Urgent measures against COVID-19 require that we bring together scientific knowledge not only from the life sciences, physical sciences and engineering, but also from the humanities and social sciences to make the most of the value of our diverse knowledge for people’s safety and well-being.

As we work to build a coexistence based on diversity and inclusion, we can create the wisdom to overcome crises of confrontation and division and can form the foundation for unprecedented discoveries and co-creation. Such an attitude of being open to different values is the very driving force of democracy which supports the future of humanity. In order to overcome the misfortunes caused by division, exclusion and isolation and to face up to the global challenges currently affecting Japanese society, I believe it is vital to build mutual understanding and trust through sincere dialogue based on openness that recognizes the existence of different positions.

Deepening discussion in a composed manner on this matter is necessary. The academic community must also deepen discussions about each of our individual roles and strive to meet society’s expectations and trust for academia. At the same time, I hope that the government will respond sincerely to the requests of the Council so that the situation can swiftly be normalized and it can fulfill its functions. I sincerely hope that the value of sicence will be understood and appreciated by as many people as possible. The University of Tokyo, utilizing its collective strengths, is committed to create an environment which enables those aspirations.

The University of Tokyo

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