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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 13:14 10/09/2008
News Review #467: October 9, 2008

Japan PM Hails Nobel Prize Haul After Chemistry Win

Reviewed by Takahiro MIYAO

Japan PM Hails Nobel Prize Haul After Chemistry Win
AFP (10/9/2008)

Three U.S.-based Scientists Share Nobel Chemistry Prize
Los Angeles Times (10/8/2008)


Good news for Japan! As has widely been reported, Japanese chemist, Osamu Shimomura, along with two American scientists won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, "the day after three other Japanese-born scientists won in physics," as correctly described in the AFP article linked above. And in this article, Prime Minister Taro Aso is quoted by saying, "honestly, I am surprised to see so many as four Japanese win in one year. It's really good."

If by "four Japanese" Mr. Aso meant one Japanese chemist and three Japanese physicists, he was mistaken. The fact is that one of the Japanese-born physicists, Mr. Yoichiro Nambu, is a U.S. citizen now, so he should be counted not as a Japanese but an American scientist, as correctly reported in almost all the media overseas. Mr. Aso's misunderstanding probably comes from inaccurate reporting in the Japanese media (in Japanese language), which invariably describes the three Nobel Prize winning physicists as "Japanese scientists." The Japanese media must correct this inaccuracy immediately in order to maintain their credibility.

Aside from his misunderstanding about nationality and country of origin, Prime Minister Aso should be concerned about the fact that Mr. Shimomura in chemistry and Mr. Nambu, the leader of the prize-winning physicist group, have been doing much of their research work in the U.S, as reported in the Los Angeles Times article linked above: "Three U.S.-based Scientists Share Nobel Chemistry Prize." Therefore, it is not Japan, but the U.S. that should be given credit for providing necessary and sufficient resources for these Japanese-born scientists to make their extraordinary achievements.

On this occasion, Mr. Aso must think about more public support for young researchers, especially in basic science, which desperately needs research money, as Japanese private corporations are shifting their focus and resources from basic research to more applied areas from business viewpoints. Thus, the current Nobel Prize rush may well be over soon, unless political leadership is exercised to change the nation's science policy fundamentally from a more open and global viewpoint. In this sense, it is not time for Mr. Aso to "feel good."

This review is adopted from the following blog (with its Japanese translation):

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