Principles of the Council for Science and Technology Policy for the Fiscal Year of 2002
By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)
The meeting of the Council for Science and Technology Policy (CSTP), held on July 11th, 2001, resolved the basic principles of the Science and Technology (S&T)-related budget for the next fiscal year.
The characteristics of these basic principles are as follow:
- Four study areas are prioritized and the research themes in the respective areas are listed. The four areas given priorities are Life Science, Information and Communication Technology, Environmental Science and Technology, and Nanotechnology and Materials;
- On the other hand, rationalization of studies carried over for a long period of time is requested. Upon drawing up the new appropriation bill, such studies have to be evaluated in terms of their significance and achievements in order to be included;
- So called "industry-academia-government cooperative summit" consisting of official research institutions and the top leaders of industry is suggested to be launched. The participants in this regular meeting are expected to create a new industry by the fusion among them; and
- Maintenance of decaying and cramped buildings of national universities will be emphasized. Remodeling and enlargement of research institutes for postgraduates as well as equipping laboratories for prioritized research areas will be intensively carried out.
Of the above basic principles, articles number one and two are related. The four prioritized areas of studies are going to be heavily invested in, and, on the contrary, resources for research of little achievement or significance so far is going to be drastically cut. These are a logical conclusion from the Second Science and Technology Basic Plan, which puts emphasis on strategic investment instead of scattering resources evenly.
This fortification of strategy of the S&T policy has been received relatively favorably. There had been criticisms against the government that sharing and distributing the budget evenly without restricting study areas would hardly bear achievement. The strategic investment on the prioritized areas is favored as it corresponds to these criticisms.
However, there are also opinions against this policy shift. Of the two interesting opinions, one mentions that the new policy stresses too much on the four areas and neglects creativity in research, achievement of which largely depends on the selection of an appropriate study theme. The other opinion states that Japan should reinforce the standing strong fields of study to compete with other nations, and that reinforcing such technologies related to energy, manufacturing and materials is more effective than promoting the studies of the four prioritized areas. These two opinions point out the fundamental problems concerning strategically fortified investment. A series of national level discussions about the problems brought up here will be necessary from now on.
The listed study themes in the prioritized four areas are as follows:
In the area of Life Science, aiming for a longevity society with vital powers, research and development of new treatment technologies such as "tailor-made" medical treatment and reproduction-related ones are going to be promoted. Also, the necessity of relating the achievement of gene studies with production of useful products is emphasized in order to cope with food and environmental problems.
An ultrafast mobile Internet system with the speed of several dozen megabits per second as well as next generation human-machine interface technology that realizes a communication machine serving in man's favor were shown as examples of Information and Communication Technology.
Three studies are emphasized in the area of Environmental Science and Technology. They are studies on global warming, resource recycling technology aiming at zero-refuse, and formation of cities coexisting with nature.
In the area of Nanotechnology and Materials, devices using new principles such as molecular, biotechnology, and quantum are intensively studied. Fundamental technologies, vital for promotion of above studies, such as instrumentation, estimation and data processing are also researched and developed at the same time.
By the end of August, each ministry concerned will submit estimates required to meet the prioritization principles. The CSTP, together with the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy (CEFP), will keep watching to make sure these strategies and principles are included in the budget for the next fiscal year.