Science Council of Japan’s ILC Committee’s draft calls out the challenge of cost-sharing but also recognizes significance of the ILC

The original article was published in the Iwate Nippo (November 15th edition). Read the original here.

The ILC Committee and Technical Verification Working Group were set up by the Science Council of Japan to deliberate on the revised ILC plan for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). They met in Tokyo on November 14th for their 10th meeting where they presented a draft of their answer to MEXT. While they did recognize the significance of the ILC – “It is very crucial and desirable that the ILC be realized” – they also raised serious concerns, such as there being no outlook of international cost-sharing. They still have not reached their final conclusion, but are leaning towards a pessimistic view of the project.

The proposal states that, compared to the LHC circular proton collider at CERN, the ILC is “suited towards the detailed research of elementary particles, and the general consensus is that it is very crucial and desirable that the ILC be realized.” However, their issue is that “there is no clear outlook” on cost-sharing among member states or securing the human resources that would be necessary to cover the 800 billion yen in construction costs.

“There is some room for debate” regarding economic effects, and they also doubted that the ILC would lead to the formation of an international city of science: “there is little need for scientists to reside in the same physical location as the ILC when we can now analyze data online.” They stated that academia as a whole did not have a good enough understanding of the ILC, and said that one issue is that “there must be a more thorough and ongoing explanation and dialogue on the ILC.”

After the meeting, ILC Committee Chair Yasuhiro Iye (Director of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) said, “I think there needs to be more explanation and dealing with scientists of other fields. I don’t know how the national government will decide, but objectively it seems unlikely that Japan will raise its hand to host the ILC during 2018.”

Specially-appointed Professor Satoru Yamashita of the International Center for Elementary Particle Physics of the University of Tokyo (a fellow at the ILC Preparation Office) attended the meeting, and said, “I’d like to explain further in order to clear up points that did not reflect reality, or points where information was lacking.” He indicated he would submit more explanatory material to the Committee.

The next meeting will be on November 21st. After the committee’s final answer is approved by the Science Council of Japan’s Board of Directors, it will be submitted to MEXT. The national government will take this into account as they decide their approach going forward.

The ILC is an international project that aims to unlock the keys to the mysteries of the origins of the universe through a linear particle collider built underground (with an initial length of 20km). The collider will accelerate electrons and positrons (elementary particles) to close to the speed of light and smash them together to create a high energy state, allow scientists to be able to examine undiscovered forms of matter and their mechanisms. The leading candidate site for the ILC is the Kitakami mountains of Iwate.

Main points in the Science Council of Japan’s proposed answer
・There is a crucial need for an electron collider that forms a complementary role to the LHC proton collider
・It would be highly risky to host the project without a clear outlook on international cost-sharing
・It will be a challenge to secure the necessary amount of human resources to work on the project for a long period of time
・The project would be significant as a way for Japan to contribute to the field of basic science through international joint research
・A plan is needed for dealing with/outlining safety measures against earthquakes, fires, and other unforeseen situations
・There is not enough dialogue happening within the academic community as a whole. There needs to be more thorough explanations and dialogue