Attendees at a meeting of a Liberal Democratic Party project team reviewing the operations of the Science Council of Japan (SCJ), amid a controversy over Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's refusal to appoint six nominees it recommended for membership, have questioned the validity of its processes and structure.
Takashi Onishi and Kiyoshi Kurokawa, two former presidents of the government-linked body of scholars, attended the meeting, held Wednesday, in person, while Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, also a former SCJ president, joined the session online.
Regarding the appointments rejected by Suga, Onishi said, "It's very important for the council to select member candidates independently," stressing the significance of the SCJ making policy proposals to the government from an independent position.
But a participating lawmaker from the ruling party LDP questioned whether the SCJ's process of recommending member candidates was appropriate, while another cast doubt over whether the council, which requires support from the government, should be a state-affiliated body. Another LDP member spoke skeptically about the need for members of the council to be given national civil servant status.
The former presidents rebutted criticism of the selection process, with one saying that "scientists themselves know who are the best scientists."
Touching on the system under which retiring SCJ members can recommend their successors, the former presidents noted that academic organizations around the world have similar recommendation systems.
Apparently, one of the former presidents said, "I haven't felt a need for SCJ members to have national civil servant status."
The SCJ has 210 members, each with a six-year term, and half are replaced every three years. The law on the SCJ stipulates that members of the council are nominated by the institution and appointed by the prime minister.
At the meeting, the former presidents countered criticism that the SCJ had not made many policy proposals, saying that it submits 120 to 150 sets of proposals over three years.
In talks with reporters after the meeting, Onishi said that the SCJ had been unable to pay part of its fees to an international academic organization, suggesting that the current state budget allocation of ¥1 billion a year to the council is insufficient.
LDP lawmaker Ryu Shionoya, who heads the project team, said separately that converting the SCJ into a private-sector body could be an option.
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