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Archives : Science

No.24 ,Science  Jan 08, 2015

Discussion of the Governance Problems Surrounding STAP Cell Research Papers

SAKURA Osamu, Researcher (Science, Technology and Society)

In January 2014, a research team led by Obokata Haruko, a research unit leader of the Laboratory for Cellular Reprogramming at RIKEN Center for Development Biology (or CDB) in Kobe, Japan, published two research papers in Nature to the effect that a new technique had been discovered to produce pluriopotent cells by applying an external stress such as immersing the somatic cells of mice in a mild acidic solution. The newly discovered cells are referred to as Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency (STAP) cells. This groundbreaking technique captured a lot of attention in both the media and the public at large as well as in academic circles because it allows cellular reprogramming only by using an external stressor without introducing external genetic material. In Japan’s scientific community the ratio of women to men is low, and against this backdrop the government and academia have been ... ... [Read more]

No.23 ,Science  Dec 18, 2014

Feature Article on Scientific Advice: Paradigm Shift in Scientific Advice
Responsible Innovation, Post-Normal Science, and Ecosystemic Approach

“Scientific advice,” which provides the government, corporations and individuals with useful technical information, knowledge and judgments on the policy issues related to science and technology, such as “risk” issues in food safety, emerging infectious diseases, climate change, earthquakes, nuclear power and cyber security, and as promotion of science, technology and innovation, is expected to play an increasingly vital role in contemporary society. Scientific advice in Japan has hitherto been undertaken by various deliberative bodies and organizations, including councils and committees attached to government ministries and agencies, regulatory bodies such as the Food Safety Commission, and, regarding comprehensive policies for the promotion and regulation of science, technology and innovation, the Cabinet Office’s Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI) and academic organizations... [Read more]

No.23 ,Science  Dec 18, 2014

Feature Article on Scientific Advice: Between Science and Administration
The Politics of Scientific Advice

(1) Is It Reactionism?  Members of the Subcommittee that deliberated on the draft of the Basic Energy Plan were replaced following a government changeover. In a blatant selection of personnel, the LDP almost exclusively appointed new experts who advocate maintaining or promoting nuclear power generation. The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy has already sent officials to an LDP working group meeting for explaining the draft of the Basic Energy Plan, wherein LDP-affiliated Diet members raised questions about the draft, which positions nuclear power as an important base power source and spells out steady promotion of the nuclear fuel cycle.The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident on 11 March 2011 has been taken as an opportunity to question the ideal form of giving scientific and expert advice to administrative authorities. A variety of criticism has been heard and many proposals made concerning this question, ... ... [Read more]

No.22 ,Science  Jun 28, 2014

Three Years after the Earthquake and the Nuclear AccidentWhere Energy Policies Will Go from Here — A Conversation about the Basic Energy Plan

Ueta Kazuhiro, Professor, Graduate School of Economics, Kyoto University

[Introductory notes by the Editorial Department of Science Journal Kagaku] The Basic Act on Energy Policy stipulates the formulation of the Basic Energy Plan (a basic plan for energy supply and demand). In formulating the Plan, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry is asked to listen to the opinions of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy, an advisory council for the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The Subcommittee on Basic Policies presented Opinions on the Basic Energy Plan (hereinafter referred to as the “Opinions”) to the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy on December 13, 2013. The secretariat for the Advisory Committee had suddenly submitted... [Read more]

No.11 ,Science  May 20, 2012


Photo : Goto Kazuhisa , Nishimura Yuichi , Shishikura Masanobu

Tsunami sediment research has garnered substantial attention since the tsunami triggered by the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami (“2011 tsunami” hereinafter). This is because the 2011 tsunami was possibly a recurrence of the 869 AD Jogan tsunami that was a topic of sedimentology research for the last 20-plus years1. We know for sure that tsunami sediment (composed of various sizes of particles ranging from clay and sand to large boulder2) is effective for estimating when a past tsunami occurred and its size, and is potentially the only and critical proof for tsunami that occurred from prior to the Edo Period (1603-1868 AD) dating back to prehistory, for which historical records are especially thin. Yet tsunami sedimentology is... [Read more]

No.8 ,Science  Nov 25, 2011

Space Exploration: Making Space Accessible to All

An astrometric satellite called Nano-JASMINE will be launched in 2013 from the Alcantara Launch Center in Brazil, with the aim of precisely mapping the position of approximately 200,000 stars across the sky. Developed as part of a joint project between the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), the University of Tokyo (Todai), Shinshu University and Kyoto University, Nano-JASMINE is a nanosatellite weighing just 35 kg. In spite of its small size however, there is nothing modest about its mission. It is designed to precisely map the three-dimensional position of approximately one million stars across the sky. Pinpointing the position of stars will help us... [Read more]

No.8 ,Science  Oct 06, 2011


Photo : Kitazawa Koichi

Many “myths” and little new information Many citizens have maintained an uncertain attitude that: “Nuclear power is dangerous and we want to stop using it, but can we do without it?” This thinking persists even today. Yet surprisingly, we have never had sufficient information on technology, economy or foreign cases that help us find an answer. This is why at the Subcommittee on Energy Alternatives of the Science Council of Japan we set out to gather information that could provide answers to address this uncertainty. During our studies we found a great many “myths” in all areas. Or perhaps I alone had simply been too ignorant. First, above all, we found that... [Read more]

No.6 ,Science  Jul 29, 2011


A failure resulting from reckless disregard Our positions on the issue of earthquakes and nuclear power plants in the Japanese archipelago differ significantly, depending on how we see the present “Fukushima genpatsu shinsai.” Here, the “Fukushima genpatsu shinsai” refers to a catastrophe unprecedented in human history, a combination of almost the Japan’s worst earthquake and tsunami disaster caused by the great off-Tohoku earthquake of March 11, 2011 with a magnitude (M) of 9.0 on the Richter scale, and a large-scale radioactive leak accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Co., Inc. (TEPCO). It is not the worst picture that the author had in mind when he proposed the term and concept of gempatsu shinsai (referring to an earthquake-nuclear combined disaster) [1. For English reference of gempatsu shinsai, see... [Read more]

No.6 ,Science  Jul 27, 2011


Developing & producing national rockets becoming more difficult Japan may have adopted science and technology as an area of national interest after WWII, but in the field of space development, its future hardly looks bright. In fact, unless we fundamentally revise our space strategy, Japan may eventually become a second-rate nation in this area. Employment in the national space science industry, which encompasses rockets and satellites, has consistently declined since peaking in 1995, and about fifty companies have withdrawn from the market in the last several years. This has made it more difficult to supply the parts necessary to develop and manufacture the H-IIA rocket. Japan is rapidly losing what we call “The ability to travel space on our own” or “The ability to operate in space”–meaning the national capacity to launch rockets and satellites with fully national parts and under national... [Read more]

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