Japanese Academic Societies Unite to Release a Joint Statement to Protect the Independence of the Science Council of Japan
Japanese scholars have met the Prime Minister Suga’s decision to reject the candidacy of six humanities and social sciences scholars for the Science Council of Japan with grave concern. 226 academic societies in the humanities and social sciences in Japan issued a Joint Statement on November 6th. Since then, the number of co-signers has reached 310. On December 2nd, they issued the same statement in English, gave a press interview and appealed to scholars and citizens worldwide for support and cooperation.
The Science Council of Japan, which is a national academy and not a federation of academic societies, does not directly represent the interests of the societies. Nevertheless, the societies are deeply concerned with the issue as the Prime Minister’s rejection of appointment not only violates the independence of the Science Council of Japan but also further threatens academic freedom, autonomy and democracy in Japan.
See the interview video on the Joint Statement:
As one of the societies that have co-signed the Joint Statement, hereby The Japan Federation of Societies for the Study of Religions also releases the Joint Statement and also its own Statement in English.
Please send your supportive message to:
We have received the following messages from colleagues overseas. Let us express our heartfelt thanks to them.
(An anonymous scholar of religion in Europe)
Governments of course want access to the best research but as Conrad Russell pointed out in his 1993 book ‘Academic Freedom’ University research is of no real value to governments or to anyone else unless it is conducted in an environment free from government interference. This is rather obvious, since research, including research-informed teaching at university level, is about discovering and understanding things that all of us, including the most powerful people in government, do not yet know. It is not in any government’s interest to second-guess such knowledge by attempting to restrict research directions or outcomes.
Prof. Tim Jensen, President of the International Association for the History of Religions
As an individual researcher and scholar of the scientific study of (the history of) religion, based at a Faculty of Humanities at a public university in Denmark, namely the University of Southern Denmark, and with a position also as Honorary Professor at Leibniz Universität in Hannover, Germany, I would like to herewith express my support to my Japanese colleagues and their call. I understand and share their worries and strongly support their cause.
In my capacity as President of a worldwide learned society, The International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), founded in 1950, and in my capacity as a member of the Executive Committee of The International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Sciences (CIPSH), I have, furthermore, a strong will and obligation to support learned societies and colleagues around the world, Japan included, when they suffer from what must be seen as an attack on the value of academic freedom, in this case with special regard to the Human Sciences/Humanities.
Prof. Steven Engler, Professor at Mount Royal University, Co-editor of the journal Religion
With due respect to Prime Minister Suga, his Ministers and his government, the autonomy of the SCJ and, more generally, support for the human and social sciences are consistent with the government’s own agenda. These academic areas are of vital importance, never more so than in the twenty-first century. They have undeniable positive impact on the cognitive capacities and information skills of students. This increases personal well being and employment opportunities. More importantly – given the government’s understandable focus on social relevance and economic opportunities – these areas are central to creating and maintaining cultures of innovation, creativity, adaptability and moral responsibility. These are increasingly essential in our ever more dynamic world. STEM areas provide essential content: products, processes, techniques and technologies. HSS provides form: integrating such content with national, regional and institutional priorities; assessing policies, values and processes in comparative contexts; informing ideological and strategic planning and critique; and, most fundamentally, providing STEM students and future institutional and political leaders with many indispensable skills, not least critical and lateral thinking. Too much emphasis is placed on assessing the research results of HSS scholars. It is their pedagogical contribution – itself dependent on an unfettered research process – that makes this academic area of vital national and global importance.