Deliberations by the Science Council of Japan ILC Committee to be done by autumn? The FDMILC to step up its efforts

The original article was published in the Iwate Nippo (August 18th edition). Read the original here.

We are now in the final stage of national-level deliberations on whether or not to host the ILC (a huge particle physics laboratory that would attempt to unravel the mysteries of the origins of the universe). As researchers around the world urge for the Japanese national government to make its intentions clear by year’s end, the national government has asked the Science Council of Japan to deliberate on the project – leading to the council to increase the pace of its ILC committee meetings. The non-partisan Federation of Diet Members for the ILC (FDMILC) predicts that the committee will wrap up its deliberations this autumn, and will strive to increase enthusiasm for the ILC in the political sector as well as step up their petitioning of the national government.

FDMILC Chair Hon. Takeo Kawamura as well as Secretary-general Hon. Ryu Shionoya visited Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his residence on August 7th to hand him a letter from the two American Nobel Prize winners in physics, urging for the ILC to be built in Japan. According to those in attendance, PM Abe said, “The issue is in securing a budget for the ILC. It also would be better to have a higher public opinion of the ILC.”

It is almost time for Europe to start planning for its next 5 year particle physics strategy (for 2020-2024), and in order to secure Europe’s cooperation on the ILC, scientists the world over are urging the Japanese government to make its intentions clear by year’s end. The ILC committee within the Science Council of Japan held its first meeting on August 10th, and will be holding its next meeting quickly, slated for the 21st.

Committee chair Yasuhiro Iye (Director of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) explained that, “We want to move as quickly as possible, but it’s all up to how the deliberations go.” The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has asked for the council to deliberate and get back to them as quickly as possible, but MEXT Secretariat Deputy Yoshiyuki Chihara intends to see how the deliberations develop, saying, “They are the ones who are doing us a favor.”

The FDMILC, taking into account the last time the Science Council deliberated on the ILC, predicts that their deliberations will come to an end by autumn. They will step up their initiatives to push for the government’s intentions to be made clear by December. Minister for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Hon. Shunichi Suzuki (House of Representatives, Iwate 2nd district) also serves as vice-chair for the FDMILC, and says “We will proceed steadily in raising the project’s profile in the minds of the people of Japan.”

As for solving the cost problem, the FDMILC and researchers are urging the related government ministries to get the ILC positioned as a national project, with a separate budget aside from the normal science and technology budget. By doing that, they are hoping to reduce any worry felt by scientists in other fields about the negative effects on their own research.

The collider technology used in the ILC is expected to lead to technological innovation, with that technology being applied in many fields. If more politicians get behind the ILC, it is possible the ILC will be able to gain attention as a strategy for growth following the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. A Liaison Council will be formed by the FDMILC within the month in order to bring in Liberal Democratic Party organizations like the Headquarters for Regional Development, Headquarters for Promoting the Establishment of a Disaster Resilient Japan, and Headquarters for Accelerating the Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. They are searching for some sort of positive sign from the national government, such as a line item specifically with the words “ILC” appear in the budgetary requests for the 2019 fiscal year budget and/or the supplementary budget for autumn of this yea.

Chief Kawamura said, “This would be the first international science project led by Japan. I hope to get greater understanding in order to make it a reality.”