A Statement of Protest against the Government’s New Intervention and Control of the Science Council of Japan
December 19th, 2022
Board of Directors
Japan Society of Political Economy
Japan Society of Political Economy strongly protests against the Japanese Government’s attempts to intervene and exert more effective control over the Science Council of Japan through its “Policy on the Science Council of Japan” issued on December 6th, 2022.
The new policy degrades the independence of the Science Council of Japan (SCJ), and makes it impossible for the SCJ to fulfil its duties as an organization representing some 870,000 scientists inside and outside Japan in fields that include the humanities and social sciences, life sciences, and science and engineering.
First, we would like to reaffirm that the SCJ is not an organization that is intended “to have a shared awareness of issues and time frames with the government,” as indicated in the government’s new policy. Rather, the SCJ is an organization with a high degree of independence that directly conveys the opinions of Japanese scientists to the government and society at large.
Second, we wish to express our doubts regarding whether “the participation of third parties, including those nominated by non-members of the SCJ” will in fact be increase the “transparency” and efficiency of the organization. If the third parties referred to in the recent government policy are non-scientists, it raises the risk that science will be distorted by non-scientific dynamics.
Third, the SCJ has already presented its own direction for independent reform in the proposal “Improving the Role of the Science Council of Japan” (April 22, 2022) and has been promoting open dialogue with citizens and the government. In contrast to such efforts, the government policy released last December disparages the democratic norms of dialogue.
In this statement we wish to reaffirm that academic research should be based on the proactive involvement of a broad and diverse range of researchers and conducted in an atmosphere of freedom, free from interference from any outside authority, and that such academic endeavors are an indispensable part of the social fabric of democracy. We thus strongly urge the government to withdraw its policy on the Science Council of Japan and enhance the independence of the SCJ from government interference.