Director's Corner

Quantity, quality and keeping the resources

Today's issue features a Director's Corner from Kaoru Yokoya, Global Design Effort Asian Regional Director.

| 26 July 2012

Yokoya on KEK caravan, giving an ILC lecture for elementary school students in Saga prefecture. Image: Tashiro Elementary School

Recently, public interest in the International Linear Collider in Japan has rocketed sky high, almost as if it keeps in step with the activity of the Global Design Effort: we are in the final stage of completing the Technical Design Report.

One might have noticed that the amount of ILC-related media coverage is increasing in an exponential fashion since 2010, especially after the positive remark made by the Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the ILC symposium hosted by the Advance Accelerator Association promoting Science and Technology (AAA) last December, which is still fresh in our minds. Right after the symposium, some members of GDE executive committee visited candidate sites in Japan. It was also publicised in the media in a big way.

The public interest is not limited to the ILC. The news from CERN on 4 July about the discovery of the Higgs-like boson made extensive headlines in Japanese media every day. Several days ago, I had the chance to meet some old friends at a high-school reunion. There, I faced a barrage of questions from them. It seems like everyone wants to know about particle physics now. These are certainly extraordinary reactions towards basic science activities, and I would say that it is a little overenthusiastic. But this did not happen overnight. These developments are the fruit of longstanding activities to reach out to every stakeholder in political, governmental, and industrial communities. I would say that in this regard, we are one step ahead of other regions in the world.

Nevertheless, this is just “one step.” There is still much that needs to be done. The most important thing is to receive the understanding and support of the people.

Japanese history in modern science is short. With over 400 years of history, science has continuously been upheld by European scientists since the time of Copernicus and Galileo. In contrast, Japan bears merely 150 years of history in the field, and for only half of it, Japanese scientists have been able to contribute to the scientific advancement.

European science had a deep influence on the way Japanese people view things, and fundamentally changed the way we live. Science is regarded as beneficial, however the true value of scientific knowledge has not been digested by Japanese people, and science remained to be an “imported idea”. Even though the Higgs particle or dark matter are attracting lots of attention, the value of having knowledge of particle physics gets ignored. Also, there is an undeniable sense that the nuclear accident at Fukushima last year had a significant negative impact on the perception of science in general.

To overcome these situations, we must continuously make an effort to gain as much understanding and support of our activities as possible. Targeting university students and officials is working very well, for example through organising periodic workshops at the university. We are now in our second run for this activity.

Two years ago, KEK kicked off an outreach project called “KEK caravan” following the proposal of Atsuto Suzuki, the director general of KEK. Scientists and other staff of KEK are being dispatched to different places in Japan by request from many different bodies, such as schools, local governments or senior study groups. The topics vary from general physics studies, radiation, to, of course, the ILC. The total numbers of the lectures have exceeded 100 already, and I believe that this activity will help changing the idea of science in Japanese minds.

We are responsible for another thing: fostering of human resources. We are not quite sure yet, but we estimate that the ILC host country will cover the half of the construction cost. So, how about the share of human resources? We have not discussed it yet. If the ILC would be realised in Japan, unprecedented numbers of scientists and engineers will be needed. It’s not only the quantity, but we will also need the human resources with qualities who can lead the project. Fostering the necessary human resources for both construction and operation of the ILC is our prime task.

Still, Japan now seems to enjoy an atmosphere of going for the ILC. We need to keep working hard not to lose this momentum.

Kaoru Yokoya

Kaoru Yokoya, Global Design Effort Asian Regional Director.
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