SCJ submits their report to MEXT – “We are not currently at a point where we can support the ILC”

The original article was published in the Iwate Nippo (December 20th edition). Read the original here.

On December 19th, the Science Council of Japan (SCJ) submitted their report on their ILC deliberations to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). While they recognized that the ILC was a scientifically important project, they pointed out that there was no clear outlook for getting other countries to take on some of the immense cost of the project. This and some other concerns led to their conclusion that, “With the current plan and state of preparations, we are not at a point where we can support the project being hosted in Japan.” The international deadline for the national government to voice its intentions is March 7th, 2019. The realization of the ILC project is in their hands.

Within the SCJ’s report, they recognized that the ILC was an important project that could lead to a new frontier in particle physics research. They also judged the revised plan (initial stage of the ILC to be built at 20 km, not 31-50 km as originally planned) to be a reasonable strategy.

However, even though the revised plan reduced the initial constructions costs from 1.1 trillion yen to 700~800 billion yen, the SCJ stated that “there is no clear outlook for sharing the costs with other countries.” They also stated that there were not currently enough researchers and engineers in Japan to operate the ILC, and that “it is very uncertain how they would train new human resources and/or fill the gap with foreign participation.”

Their conclusion: “With the current plan and state of preparations, we are not at a point where we can support the project being hosted in Japan.”

On the same date, the SCJ held its Board of Directors meeting in Tokyo, where Yasuhiro Iye, chair of the ILC committee (and Director of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) explained the report. The directors voted unanimously to approve the report. Next, Chair Iye visited MEXT’s office in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo, where he submitted the report to Keisuke Isogai, the head of MEXT’s Research Promotion Bureau. According to Chair Iye, Mr. Isogai said, “MEXT will take this report into account as we consider the ILC.”

In his remarks to the press afterwards, Chair Iye said, “We agree that the ILC would be significant in finding new physics. But without a clear outlook on securing a budget or human resources, at this current stage we are not able to give the go sign. This sort of large project should not just be debated within the particle physics field, but within a wide range of fields.”

The International Committee for Future Accelerators (made up of directors of major accelerator labs throughout the world) approved a reduction in the ILC’s initial length in November 2017. Taking this development into account, the Science Council of Japan began deliberating on the ILC in July 2018 at MEXT’s request.

Main points of the SCJ’s report
・Consensus has been reached in the high energy particle physics community that the ILC is an important project.
・As the ILC will be a very expensive project, more wide-ranging debate is needed with representatives of other academic fields.
・It was reasonable to revise the ILC to limit and optimize its research for the precise measurement of the Higgs coupling.
・Results at the ILC could possible suggest the next step forward for particle physics research.
・It is not clear how international cost-sharing would be achieved, and it is very uncertain how human resources would be trained/secured.
・With the current plan and state of preparations, the SCJ is not at a point where they can support the project being hosted in Japan.