科学技術戦略 国際競争を勝ち抜くために

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 21, 2009)
Japan can't afford to trail in intl science, tech race
科学技術戦略 国際競争を勝ち抜くために(12月21日付・読売社説)

Without progress in the fields of science and technology, new industries will stagnate, which may put this nation on the road to decline. How then should the government bolster science and technology--a key source of national strength.

A new strategy on science and technology has been compiled by a committee belonging to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and headed by Nobel Chemistry Prize winner Ryoji Noyori, president of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (Riken).

The strategy incorporates measures aimed at promoting effective yet flexible research and development efforts.

Such measures should form part of a wider growth strategy, which the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is expected to draw up by the end of the year.

As the Government Revitalization Unit--tasked with identifying wasteful government spending--has judged many projects in the fields of science and technology should be scrapped or have their budgets cut, concern has arisen both at home and abroad that Japan no longer has a science and technology strategy. Such concerns should quickly be put to rest.


Better coordination needed

Under previous government policies, four fields, including life sciences and information and telecommunication, were given priority when compiling budgets. However, the scope of each field was too broad, which meant cooperation among the related ministries and agencies was poorly coordinated. This made it difficult to create an efficient structure for ensuring cooperation among industry, government and academia.

It was this failing that impeded development of the nation's next-generation supercomputer--a project that attracted much public attention during the Government Revitalization Unit's budgetary screening process.

While the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry took the initiative and threw its weight behind the program, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, which oversees the electronics industry, has kept its distance.

The development of a supercomputer is tied to the development of related fields. However, the ripple effect turned out to be limited as the project created little momentum.

As a result, under the latest strategy, the project has had its goals narrowed down to a dozen, with each to be carefully overseen and implemented.

Under the strategy, each selected policy goal will see concerned ministries and agencies as well as certain industry groups closely involved in the process from the initial formulation of strategies through construction and operation of the systems put in place to ensure a successful outcome.


Steady investment vital

The new strategy lists possible tasks, including tackling global warming via the development of a highly efficient solar battery and a regenerative medicine project that will see more backing for research into induced pluripotent stem cells--a type of human stem cell that is capable of being developed into various types of human cells.

The strategy was drawn up with reference to policies adopted by many European nations.

The strategy will likely spell out, both its goals and means, and should back research proceed in a flexible manner and in a way that promotes the effective use of budgetary funds.

Obviously, support for fundamental research is essential, as it will help new fields in science and technology to come about.

The problem is funding. The new strategy calls for the allocation of 1 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, about 5 trillion yen, as its related budget. Although there should be room for discussion due to the nation's severe financial situation, there is no question that steady investment is of vital importance.

However, it also goes without saying that wasteful spending should be eradicated on the condition that necessary funding is allocated. To ensure research and development proceed in an effective manner, it is vital to nurture researchers who are knowledgeable in the operation and management of research organizations.

As European countries and the United States are already aiming to strengthen their competitiveness in the fields of science and technology by boosting investment, Japan should act promptly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 21, 2009)
(2009年12月21日00時18分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-12-21 06:17 | 英字新聞

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