TOKYO--A leading academic has been named to help run the country's highest scientific advisory body. Endocrinologist Hiroo Imura, former president of Kyoto University, last week was appointed to one of two full-time positions at the prime minister's Council for Science and Technology, which will be given broader authority under a government-wide reorganization scheduled to go into effect in 2001.
The reorganization, which includes a merger of the country's two major pillars of research funding, the Science and Technology Agency (STA) and the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture (Monbusho), also was approved last week by the Japanese Diet. Under the reorganization, the council's authority will be broadened to include the social sciences and humanities as well as science. The council, which includes several Cabinet officials, "will be a place to discuss the country's overall science policy," Imura says.
While many scientists worry that research might get short shrift under the combined STA-Monbusho ministry, they are excited by rumors that Akito Akima--a physicist and former university president who's a shoe-in for a seat in the upper house at next month's elections--could be named education minister if the ruling Liberal Democrat party retains control. The pair "would make a good team," says University of Tokyo biologist Ken-ichi Arai. But Genya Chiba, executive director of the STA-affiliated Japan Science and Technology Corporation, cautions that they will still face plenty of restraints. "There are limitations to what ministers can do," he says. As for the new Council's supposed authority, he adds, "until we see it, we can't know for sure."