--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 7
EDITORIAL: Nobel Prize winners

Akira Suzuki, professor emeritus at Hokkaido University, and Eiichi Negishi, distinguished professor at Purdue University in the United States, have won this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with a U.S. chemist.

The two Japanese scientists have been awarded the prize for their achievements in synthetic organic chemistry, a field of research focused on producing a wide variety of compounds, from medicines to electronics, by using specifically designed chemical reactions.

Synthetic organic chemistry may not be familiar to the general public, but for researchers it is a field full of intriguing theories and of great practical importance.

Negishi and Suzuki developed techniques called palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling, which can freely bind carbon atoms together, leading to new ways to create various chains of carbon atoms that constitute the backbone of organic compounds.

Their methods are called the Suzuki reaction and the Negishi reaction, respectively, and have spawned a vast range of related research.

Organic synthesis using palladium as a catalyst is a field of research in which Japanese scientists have made many great contributions. It is sometimes referred to as "chemistry of Japanese."

There are many other palladium-based reactions named after Japanese researchers. The palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling reaction developed by Richard Heck, who shared the Nobel Prize with the two Japanese, is called the Mizoroki-Heck reaction, after the American researcher and a Japanese chemist, the late Tsutomu Mizoroki.

A chemically interesting and useful reaction can be discovered at a relatively small cost if the effort is based on a good idea.

Some experts say this was a field suitable for creative Japanese researchers who worked during the era of insufficient funding.

The Nobel Prize for Suzuki and Negishi is a glittering monument to all the great achievements by Japanese researchers in the field.

They won the prize as representatives, so to speak, of the many Japanese chemists who have reactions named after them. Their feats have proved the effectiveness of Japanese approaches to research in chemistry.

The two have brought to 15 the number of Japanese winners of the Nobel Prize in science, including Hideki Yukawa, the first Japanese laureate, and those in such fields as physics, physiology and medicine.

Only five Japanese won the Nobel Prize in science up to 1999. But Japan's Nobel performance gained huge momentum--three straight years of winning from 2000--which added four to the list of Japanese laureates.

Now, a Nobel Prize for a Japanese scientist is no longer a rarity. This undoubtedly testifies to the high level of Japanese scientific research.

There is, however, no room for optimism about the situation of scientific research in Japan.

The trend toward demanding short-term results has grown markedly in recent years, and there are troubling signs that the environment for long-term and basic research has deteriorated.

Despite the widely shared recognition of the importance of human resources for scientific research, the job outlook is gloomy for students with doctorates.

Scientific research is no longer an area that offers many opportunities for young people to pursue their dreams.

It has also been pointed out that the low priority given to scientific research in the government's sweeping budget review has demoralized young researchers.

Fresh efforts should be made to promote scientific research in this nation. Japan's future depends to a great extent on science and technology.

We want Japan to continue to be a country that produces original scientific achievements. We hope many young Japanese will be inspired and encouraged to pursue scientific research by what older generations of Japanese researchers have achieved.
It is crucial to improve the research environment for young scientists.

by kiyoshimat | 2010-10-09 06:41 | 英字新聞

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