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2016年1月25日 (月)

科学技術計画 次代の暮らしに役立つ開発を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Pursue scientific advancements that will facilitate life for future generations
科学技術計画 次代の暮らしに役立つ開発を

Efforts should be expedited to create and improve a structure in which the strength of Japan’s long-cultivated science and technology will flourish.

The government endorsed at a Cabinet meeting the 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan, a five-year program devised to lay down guidelines for the nation’s science and technology policy, effective next fiscal year.

One of its main pillars is to build what can be described as a “super-smart society” that will network such apparatuses as robots, artificial intelligence and information technology equipment.

If widely spread, much of this technology, including nursing-care robots, will help enable people to live comfortably. It can be widely applied in such fields as transportation, medical and financial services.

In the United States, various corporations are moving forward with projects that transcend their primary lines of work, as illustrated by Google Inc.’s ambitious efforts to build a self-driving car. Although Japan has a large number of information-related companies and researchers, there have been conspicuous delays in this respect due to such factors as their less-than-satisfactory financial strength.

The new basic plan has pointed to the necessity of building and improving facilities and an information infrastructure that can be shared by corporations. To survive international competition in this field, the public and private sectors need to make integrated efforts to achieve this goal.

Another feature of the latest basic program is that an independent heading has been given to national security for the first time. This is aimed at emphasizing the importance of reinforcing cooperation between the government, industry and academia in the field of defense, thereby further encouraging the private sector to join the desired endeavor.

Increase researchers

With China’s increased maritime and space activities, acts of international terrorism and cyber-attacks in mind, the basic plan will also seek to promote necessary research and development from now on. Efforts should be made to successfully put into practical use such technology as drone control techniques, a field of study in which universities are already making progress, as well as ultrahigh-performance resin.

It is worrying to note the decline in the competence of Japan’s scientific research. The basic plan expresses a sense of urgency about the lack of a desired increase in the number of theses in the realm of natural science, as well as those authored jointly with foreign scientists.

Being quoted by many scientists is proof of the excellence of a thesis. Since the beginning of this century, Japan has suffered a continued decline in the ranking of nations whose top-level theses are frequently quoted.

A major task facing the country is how to increase the number of researchers who can actively work internationally. Extending long-term assistance to scientists, not just excessively emphasizing their immediate accomplishments, is essential for the pursuit of this goal.

In many cases, young researchers who have obtained doctorates end up with limited-term positions at universities and elsewhere. They cannot afford to spend sufficient time on research activities. The situation has been viewed as a matter of social concern.

We believe increasing the number of researchers with stable positions will be conducive to improving Japan’s research and development abilities.

Little progress is being made in increasing the percentage of female scientists. This is evident from one of the targets cited in the fourth basic plan, which sought to increase the percentage of women researchers to 30 percent of all newly employed scientists. This target remains unmet.

Advancing scientific technology that explores the unknown fields requires a diversity of human resources. It is also indispensable to facilitate an environment conducive to scientific work, so talented researchers can actively work to the fullest.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 24, 2016)


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