Previous Fora / 2005 / Programme

Importance of Small Basic Sciences to the Future

Junjiro Kanamori, International Institute for Advanced Studies

A breakthrough in basic science is born unpredictably and quite often not a fruit of a big budget. We need many scientific and technological breakthroughs in solving environmental and energy problems facing the present society. As a scientist in the field of materials research I would like to mention, first of all, examples such as superconductivity, spin and molecular electronics, new catalytic capabilities of oxides, storage of hydrogen and carbon dioxide in solids, etc. as possible future contributions which the materials science as small basic science may make.

Next I would like to discuss the general trend in science policy adopted by many developed countries including Japan which gives high priority on immediate technological productivity. I emphasize that the policy should be executed with caution not to suppress or discourage small basic sciences in which researchers explore unknown areas with no prospects. The present trend in science policy may have several adverse effects on samml basic sciences budgetally and psychologically. I would like to discuss then the importance of keeping openness and interdisciplinary approaches in creating new small basic sciences capable to give birth to breakthroughs. Policy to encourage propatent attitudes of university researchers may conflict with keeping science open and fostering interdisciplinary approaches.