National

Kyoto University says no to military-related research despite spike in Defense Ministry funding

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Kyoto University, one of Japan’s oldest and most prestigious centers of higher education, has announced a basic policy of not conducting military-related research.

The decision by the university, which claims nine current and former graduates and professors as Nobel laureates, comes despite greatly increased funding for military research from the Defense Ministry.

“Kyoto University’s basic mission is, by contributing to the planet’s harmony and coexistence through sound research activities based on freedom and independence, the creation of internationally-recognized excellence. All who do research here recognize the impact of their own research results on the future,” Kyoto University President Juichi Yamagiwa said in an announcement posted online Wednesday. “Our researchers aim to contribute to social order and human peace and well-being, and we will not carry out military research that leads to threatening these aims.”

When a decision is needed about whether proposed research is military-related, the university will, under the president, establish a committee to evaluate the proposal, the announcement added.

As the government attempts to pour more money into universities and private enterprises for military-related research, Kyoto University’s decision is expected to have an impact on other higher learning institutions.

In fiscal 2017, which ends March 31, the Defense Ministry allotted ¥11 billion for military technology-related research, an 18-fold increase over the previous fiscal year.

Other universities that have said no to Defense Ministry funding for research include Shiga Prefectural University, which announced its policy last December, and Kansai University, which said it will not allow researchers to apply for the money. A 2016 survey by Kyodo News showed that at least 16 universities, including Okayama University, Shizuoka University and Tokyo University of Technology, had applied for funds.

In March 2017, a statement on research for military security by the Science Council of Japan called the Defense Ministry’s funds for research problematic due to governmental intervention. The council also warned that, contrary to the original intentions of scientists, the results of their research could be diverted for military application.

“Prudent judgment is required on sources of research funding and other conditions before actual research activities begin,” the report said. “Each university or research institution should create a system to review research proposals that might be used for military security research for their appropriateness, both technologically and ethically, based on the validity of their research objectives, methods, and potential applications.”