Call for Messages: Academic freedom and democracy in Japan at risk

Call for Messages: Academic freedom and democracy in Japan at risk

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Please submit your supportive message here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdG8c42G4jnqvV3WygBNkttnEAzIeB-UiHMcOMhtE-INn0z3w/viewform?usp=sf_link

We hope to get your supportive message regarding the recent incident that puts independent scholarship and democracy in Japan at risk.

On October 1, 2020, Japanese Prime Minister Suga rejected the appointment of 6 nominees in the field of humanities and social sciences (HSS) to the Science Council of Japan (SCJ), which has been met with a critical response from scholars across Japan.

The SCJ is an organization that is equivalent to the national academy of Japan. The primary roles of the SCJ include exchange with international scientific organizations as well as the national academies of other countries, promotion of scholarship (both natural sciences and HSS), and issuing opinions from a scholarly perspective on emerging social and environmental issues affecting our nation and globalizing world. Since its establishment in 1949, the SCJ has been encompassing both the natural sciences and HSS. As such, the SCJ analyzes contemporary social and environmental issues from an integrated, synthetic perspective and thus makes it possible to inform policy in a multidimensional way. These opinions are put forth primarily in the form of policy proposals.

Since the Prime Minister’s rejection to appoint 6 nominees, more than 300 academic associations have individually issued position statements. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister and Government have remained unwavering in their claim that their rejection of appointment was legitimate, despite failing to make public a clear rationale. As a consequence, academic societies across various HSS fields set up the “Japanese Liaison Council for Academic Societies in the Humanities and Social Sciences” and published a Joint Statement. In the statement, we demanded 1) an explanation of the reason(s) why the nominees recommended by the Science Council of Japan were not appointed, and 2) the appointment of the nominees recommended by the Science Council of Japan who were not appointed. As of November 30th, 2020, a total of 310 societies are participating in and/or supportive of the Joint Statement. This degree of solidarity in putting forth a joint statement is, to the best of our knowledge, unprecedented in Japanese history.

In light of this situation, our specific appeal to international society is as follows. We seek to put a particular emphasis on the fact that national academy and scholarship must be allowed to maintain independence from the government. The mission of the SCJ is spelled out in the Act on the Science Council of Japan as “contributing to the peaceful reconstruction of Japan, the welfare of the human society generally, contributing to academic progress in partnership with scholarship throughout the world.” This mission, we emphasize, is not simply the mission of the SCJ but shared widely among researchers throughout Japan. In this way, we view these current events within Japan as an issue of “world” peace and welfare, and seek to thus work in solidarity with those outside of Japan to bring about the realization of a more democratic and peaceful world.

For those who agree with this call, whether you be a researcher or a citizen, we encourage you to please contribute a supportive message at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdG8c42G4jnqvV3WygBNkttnEAzIeB-UiHMcOMhtE-INn0z3w/viewform?usp=sf_link

We held a press conference in English on December 2nd, 2020, which can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/47unG8Y0-JQ

 

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