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EDITORIAL | Science Council Should Stop Receiving Taxpayers' Funds 

The Science Council has used its postwar status to obstruct research into improving Japan's defense capabilities. It can be privatized and raise its own money.



Exterior view of the Japan Science Academy in Tokyo. (© Sankei by Ikue Mio)

A panel of experts established by the Cabinet Office to consider the reorganization of the Science Council of Japan has compiled its draft report. It recommends that the Science Council be reconstituted as a non-governmental corporation. 

The report declared that the council's current status as a "government agency" is inappropriate. It is not independent and therefore cannot provide independent scientific advice to the Cabinet and other organizations. It concluded that it would be preferable for the Science Council to be independently incorporated.

Under current law, the Science Council is a "special national agency" of the government. Per the recommendations, new laws would be enacted to make the Science Council into a special corporation. 

As for how the corporation would be financed, the report is clear. It states, "In the future, rather than relying solely on government funds, it is extremely natural to aim to secure independent financial resources to a certain degree."

In other words, for now, taxpayers would still fund a considerable portion of the corporation's operations. 

Teruo Kishi, professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, chairs the meeting of government experts to consider the form of the Science Council of Japan. Here he answers questions from reporters. December 21, at the Cabinet Office. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Science Council Opposes National Defense

Even if it is sensible to make the Japan Science Academy a corporation, it should not necessarily receive state support. It would be completely unacceptable to provide state funds to any entity with the status of a "national academy" if it maintains the current stance of avoiding matters related to the military.

During the Cold War, the Science Academy issued anti-military statements such as the 1950 "Statement on Research for War Purposes." In 2017 the group reconfirmed that stance in another statement. These statements have been used as justification to obstruct research into improving Japan's defense capabilities.

If the Science Council is to continue as a "national academy," at the very least it must reflect on its ill-advised words and deeds in the past and retract such statements. 

Science Council of Japan President Mamoru Mitsuishi holds a press conference on December 22, in Tokyo. (© Kyodo)

Trying to Preempt the Experts

The Science Council itself issued a statement describing the form of organization it hopes for. They did so even before the panel of experts had drafted their report. It amounted to nothing but another case of its self-indulgent posturing. 

The group is demanding that organizational changes ensure its independence in terms of activities. Moreover, it wants full independence in the selection of its members and chairman. But for a government entity, that is tantamount to denying the Prime Minister's right to select personnel. 

It is also demanding that "the government should take responsibility for ensuring a stable financial base on an ongoing basis." That would be no different from the current situation in which the group operates with tax money. 

Their latest statement also contains this sentence: "We hope for continued consultations without getting bogged down in the debate about whether to become a corporation or remain a national entity."

Takashi Onishi, left, and Seigo Hirowatari, are both former chairman of Science Council. (2020) (© Sankei)

Missing: A Relationship of Trust

Doesn't that sound like it is trying to indefinitely postpone a final decision to protect its current entrenched interests?

The statement also says that for the Science Council, it is "vital to rebuild a relationship of trust" with the government. However, as long as the group continues to seek the appointment of the same six former member candidates who were not appointed by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in 2020, we will not be able to restore such a relationship of trust.

The group should abandon its abnormal fixation on this issue and stop flogging a dead horse.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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