Expert puts report into context

| 3 September 2015

Satoru Yamashita answers questions about the recently released Summary Report from Japan.

Satoru Yamashita is professor for particle physics at the University of Tokyo. He is also the chair of the ILC Strategy Council of Japan and as such acts as go-between, interpreter and commentator between worlds. He is familiar with the world of science ministries, in particular the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology MEXT, the high-energy physics community, industry, as well as strategy groups from various regions. He explains the meaning of the recently published summary report from the ILC Advisory Panel reporting to MEXT.


What’s the report’s main message?

The ILC is at a stage where it’s basically ready for construction. The scientific community in Asia, the Americas and Europe feature it on their strategies for future facilities. The project is no longer a pure R&D undertaking; within the next few years governments will have to decide whether to go ahead and build it or not. “I think the report says that Japan is ready to discuss the project on an international level,” says Yamashita. “But in order to discuss issues like cost sharing or human resources, it needs other countries to be ready to seriously discuss (without commitment for now) with MEXT on these matters. A clear evidence of readiness would be, for instance if the government of the country officially discusses the possibility of funding for ILC construction or to attribute funding to the linear collider in their budgets.”

Discussions have already started with the US and with the European Commission, but “Europe is very complicated – you’ve got the EU, you’re got CERN and all the individual countries, plus all the high-priority projects currently ongoing like ITER or the LHC upgrade,” Yamashita says. “Japan is doing what it can do really seriously, and we should take the next steps together.”


Why was the report published now?

The next report of the Advisory Panel is due in spring next year, so the report now published is called “Summary of Discussions to Date”. “It is usual custom for panels like the ILC Advisory Panel to publish interim reports like this one, to first summarise issues to solve,” says Yamashita. The summary stresses the importance of international support and discussions. With it in hand, MEXT can take the next step. “They can go ahead and discuss the highlighted issues, especially internationally. So now we need our counterparts, potential partner countries, to be ready to seriously discuss the possibility of sharing of cost and human resources.”


What is the ILC Advisory Panel? Does it have any influence?

The ILC Advisory Panel was created by MEXT following a report from the Science Council of Japan. Unlike SCJ, the Advisory Panel is an official body of MEXT: it is part of the “ILC Task Force” which was set up by the boss of MEXT – the science minister – and is chaired by his deputy, the vice minister. “In Japanese policy this is quite exceptional,” explains Yamashita. “The ILC is seen as a special case, especially in view of the wide range of supporting bodies from industry sector, political sector, local governments to social groups there, and the wish to trigger a new style of international activities in a remote area of Japan together with the world’s top-level scientists.”

So to recap: MEXT runs the ILC Task Force. The ILC Task Force appointed the ILC Advisory Panel, which in turn consists of different working groups on specialized topics chosen for their neutral position to the ILC project, following an announcement by the MEXT minister in 2014. The Advisory Panel itself does not take decisions, but it collects information and makes recommendations to MEXT and thus the government. The activity will continue monitoring progress of the project until the government decides to go ahead (or not).  And a government decision about the ILC is expected in about two years from now. “The technical and human resources issues mentioned in the summary need to be solved before the final decision. At this stage no commitment is necessary but we need prospects at the inter-government level. Discussions as well concrete plans on how to organise the ILC will have started under a hypothetical assumption and received positive prospects among partner countries by the final decision,” says Yamashita.

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