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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 October 8 - 14  > Nobel prize-winners are reminder of the importance of state’s role in supporting basic research
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2008 October 8 - 14 [POLITICS]

Nobel prize-winners are reminder of the importance of state’s role in supporting basic research

October 10, 2008
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

Three Japanese physicists Nambu Yoichiro, Kobayashi Makoto, and Masukawa Toshihide won the Nobel Prize in physics, and the Prize in chemistry went to another Japanese, Shimomura Osamu.

They were awarded the prize for basic research exploring the profound mysteries of nature. Although they began their respective research out of intellectual curiosity, their efforts have contributed in the long run to creating new technologies useful in industry, healthcare, and life in general.

To shed light on the important role basic research has in encouraging young people to nurture an interest in science is a big challenge for the development of humankind and the future of Japanese society.

However, the government does not support basic research much.

With its “structural reform” policies, the Liberal Democratic Party has focused on studies that can lead to immediate effects on the economy on the grounds of enhancing “international competitiveness,” and has urged many researchers to compete with each other in making short-term achievements.

In the last four years, the government has cut 60.2 billion yen in the budgets for state-run universities, making research environments with a long-term perspective so dismal that some researchers lack the research funds needed to conduct their research. Private funding agencies are also very reluctant to fund basic research.

It has become difficult for young researchers who complete their doctorates to continue their careers in research, although they are the ones who should lead in promoting scientific advances in the next generation. Some are forced to continue to accept part-time postdoctoral positions. They are the so-called “the highly-educated working poor”. Such a restrictive research climate deprives young people of their ambitions to keep studying.

The Science Council of Japan in August waned that “the very foundation to push basic research ahead is greatly swaying and is in critical condition,” and proposed that the government “take immediate measures.”

Taking the four Nobel prize recipients as an example to follow, the government should fulfill its responsibility to remedy this situation and improve state support for basic research.
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