Since the end of World War II, Japanese academics have renounced military research based on the bitter lessons of the war, in which Japanese scientists contributed, both directly and indirectly, to the ravages of war at home and abroad. The Science Council of Japan (SCJ), established in 1949 and now comprising over 2,000 scientists in fields from engineering to the humanities to the natural sciences, made the decisions to ban military research in 1950 and 1967. These promises made by Japanese scientists are consistent with the Constitution of Japan, Article 9 of which renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and the maintenance of military forces that could be used for war.
Recently, however, these peaceful principles have been severely violated under the “proactive peace” policy of the hawkish Abe administration. For example, although the export of arms and related technologies had long been strictly restricted, Abe removed this ban in 2014. The Japanese government and various industries have been promoting military-academia joint research for the production of dual-use technologies. As of 2014, over 20 joint research projects had been initiated since the early 2000s between the Ministry of Defense and academia. In December 2013, the Abe administration approved the National Defense Program Guidelines for FY2014 and beyond, which aim to further develop dual-use technologies by funding research projects at universities and research institutes. A big turning point came in 2015, when the Ministry of Defense started a funding program to involve civil scientists in the development of dual-use technologies that could be employed in military equipment. Annual budgets for dual-use grants in FY2015 and FY2016 were 300 and 600 million yen, respectively, and the budget is likely to be increased significantly in FY2017.
These trends should be viewed as a governmental counterattack against scientists’ promises not to take part in military research again. We are concerned that military research severely violates academic freedom because the achievements of military-funded research will not be open to the public without the permission of the military, which threatens the foundation of science. Universities should be concerned with universal values such as the development of democracy, the welfare of human beings, nuclear disarmament, the abolition of poverty, and the realization of a peaceful and sustainable world. To ensure such activities, universities must remain independent from any governmental or political power and authority, and they must pursue the goal of human education to encourage students to aspire to truth and peace.
At this moment, the SCJ should take initiative to refuse military research in academia based on its long-held peaceful stance. However, several leading scientists, including officials of the SCJ, are considering overturning this long-held opposition to military research. Professor Takashi Onishi, the president of SCJ, says that it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw a clear line between knowledge and technologies for military and civilian uses. He argues for lifting the research ban under certain conditions, such as when technologies will be used for defence and not offence. However, such distinctions mean little. Meanwhile, universities across the nation have faced a series of funding cuts from the government, leaving scientists starved for alternative funding such as grants from the Ministry of Defense and agencies tied to the U.S. military.
The SCJ established a 15-member panel to discuss whether to keep or abandon its long-held stance in May 2016 and has held monthly discussions since June 2016. The panel may take a year or so to reach a decision. We are now at a crossroads for science in Japan. It’s time to maximize our movement against military research!
We have therefore organized the Japan Coalition Against Military Research in Academia on September 30th, 2016, which serves as a liaison committee for movements against military research, peace movements, university unions and citizens. We are responsible for not repeating the bitter experience of participating in war through military research. Such research is inconsistent with the principles of higher education and the development of science and technology for a better future. We are concerned that military research will distort the sound development of science and technology and cause men, women and children alike to lose their trust and faith in science. We sincerely appeal to all scientists, workers in universities and research institutes, undergraduate and graduate students and citizens to join us. Let’s unite scientists and citizens together for peace!
Satoru Ikeuchi, Professor Emeritus of Astrophysics, Nagoya University
Ryuzaburo Noda, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Okayama University
Katsuo Nishiyama, Professor Emeritus of Social Medicine, Shiga University of Medical Science