Japanese military grants provoke academic conflict

RECENT increases in grants by the Japanese military has provoked conflict and division among the nation’s academics and scholars. Universities where defence-related research and projects are taking place are set to receive a large boost to their funding, at a time when government and other funding for research grants in general has continued to decline.General research funding has seen an average annual drop of 1% over the past number of years. However, in contrast, grants for defence related research will see an increase of nearly 2000%; from JPY600 million ($5.23m) in 2016 to JPY11 billion ($95.88m) for the 2017 fiscal year.Military subsidies for defence research were launched in 2015 by the administration of Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. The purpose of this funding is to increase the strength of the technology used by the Japanese military. In 2015 and 2016, the Ministry of Defence cited the threats from North Korea’s missile testing and China’s growing naval influence as reasons to improve the technological assets available to Japanese military personnel.Academics are divided over both the symbolic and practical effects that the funding increase could have for Japan. The Science Council of Japan has released positive statements regarding the move, and is in the process of discussing whether or not to amend council statements from the 1950’s and 60’s declaring that the Council are “never to engage in military research”.However, the Japan Scientists Association believe that the subsidies may be illegal under Japan’s post-war peace constitution, and have taken part in protests against the subsidies, organised by the Japanese Coalition Against Military Research in Academia. The coalition also released a statement on 28 th December last year saying that “Japan is on the way to forming a ‘military industry-academic complex”.Some universities have gone so far as to ban their researchers from applying to avail of grants, including Hiroshima University. Hiroshima was one of the two tragic sites where America dropped atomic bombs, ending the Second World War. After the war the Japanese constitution was changed in an attempt to ensure that the country would work towards peace, and Hiroshima University in particular strictly prohibits any links to military activities.