Members of the nation’s largest scientific group, The Science Council of Japan, reaffirmed their commitment Tuesday to continue opposition to military research in universities and academic institutions despite a massive increase in the government’s fiscal 2017 defense research budget.
“We have to ensure the continuity of sound academic research,” Atsushi Sugita, a political science professor at Tokyo’s Hosei University who heads the council’s exploratory committee, told a news conference at the council’s headquarters in Tokyo.
The group has concluded that lifting the ban could be interpreted as a license for a range of purposes, which may eventually become uncontrollable, Sugita said.
“I admit that various (funding options) need to be secured . . . but if (the funding system for military research) dominates the research, it will lead to a distortion and can be easily misused,” he said.
The council’s committee on military security and science and technology decided to uphold its basic policy, first announced in 1950, of discouraging university research on so-called dual use technologies.
The committee also notes the Defense Ministry’s system of seeking academic researchers to fund has many problems from the point of view of sound academic progress, and that it was necessary to establish a mechanism to determine the appropriateness of university collaboration in military and security research.
While the council’s statement has no legal force, the group, which has about 840,000 members from all natural and social science fields, is highly influential in both academia and the government.
Tuesday’s decision will be taken up next month at the council’s general assembly. If passed, it will be the first formal statement from the entire council on the issue since 1967.
In recent years, concern among Japanese scientists about military research at universities has grown as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government and the United States look to increase and support more defense-related research at Japanese universities.
Unlike the U.S., with its strong connections between academic researchers and the defense industry establishment, Japan’s academic researchers have traditionally not received much in the way of government support.
That has changed over the past five years as Abe’s government attempts to beef up military spending for defense purposes and also promote the export of Japanese-made weapons and technology.
In fiscal 2017, beginning April 1, the defense research budget will be increased from the current ¥600 million to ¥11 billion.
Much of the money will be spent on the research and development of missiles, such as ship-to-air missiles for destroyers
The U.S. military is also funding Japanese research on dual-use technologies, especially lasers. Between 2000 and 2015, according to Kyodo News, the U.S. offered more than ¥200 million to a dozen universities and institutes here.
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