National / Science & Health

G-7 science chiefs highlight gender imbalance in science, need for research on dementia


Group of Seven ministers of science and technology wrapped up a three-day meeting in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture on Tuesday, pledging to help set up an international network that gets more women involved in science.

The representatives from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States as well as the European Union also agreed to promote research on the brain. This could help address dementia and other aging-related disorders, as many countries are grappling with aging populations.

During the meeting, the ministers “recognized that science, technology and innovation are essential for social and economic development, and for addressing global challenges such as health, energy, agriculture and the environment,” according to a document they issued called the Tsukuba Communique. The city of Tsukuba is known for its concentration of research institutions.

The ministers decided to monitor and take action against “gender stereotyping and bias that too often exist within science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines and workplaces.”

They also agreed to support the international networking of female researchers, scientists and students.

Furthermore, they resolved to “develop policy and working environments in which equal opportunity allows women to exert their abilities, advance their career prospects and play a full role” in science, technology and innovation.

“It is very important to nurture young researchers, including women,” Aiko Shimajiri, Japan’s state minister in charge of science and technology policy, told reporters. She chaired the ministerial talks.

The meeting’s outcomes will be reflected in discussions between the nations’ leaders when they meet at the G-7 Ise-Shima summit in Mie Prefecture next week.

Given increasing numbers of elderly people in some countries, the G-7 members also confirmed the importance of making it possible for the elderly to remain active in accordance with their capacity and interests.

They agreed to “promote sustained research and international collaboration addressing fundamental aspects of brain functions” to understand the mechanisms of aging-linked disorders such as dementia.

To put into practice and share new discoveries, the G-7 countries will boost “open science,” a framework that enables not only academics but also the private sector and the general public to access and use the results of publicly funded research.

To that end, they will establish a working group on open science to explore incentives for researchers and institutions, the communique said.

The statement also said that despite rapid changes in seas and oceans due to the overuse and destruction of marine habitats, increased ocean acidity and depleted oxygen, the ocean environment remains poorly studied.

The ministers agreed to “support the development of an initiative for enhanced global sea and ocean observation required to monitor inter alia climate change and marine biodiversity.”

Following the Tohoku tsunami of 2011 and the quakes that rattled Kyushu last month, the ministers decided to promote scientific and technological cooperation to strengthen societies against natural disasters.