Last week, in an unusual move, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga denied six nominees to the Science Council of Japan. The controversial decision has sparked speculation over the reason.

Critics charge that Suga is playing politics by turning down nominees with a record of past criticism of government policies and has set a dangerous precedent that will lead to decreased academic freedom. Suga’s defenders say the council is a government body, the prime minister has the right to veto membership and that none of those who were rejected will be less free to pursue their academic interests. But the way the council chooses its members has also prompted criticism and calls for reform from supporters and opponents of the decision.

What is the Science Council of Japan?