Budget cuts fuel frustration among academics

Japan’s premier scientific research institution, RIKEN, celebrated turning 100 this year with a grand ceremony attended by the empress and emperor. But not everybody was in the mood to party. RIKEN used to be known as a paradise for scientists because of its generous funding. No longer: as Japan squeezes funding for universities and research institutes, the cracks are starting to show, reports Nature.

One scientist affected is Takaomi Saido, who researches Alzheimer’s disease at RIKEN’s Brain Science Institute in Wako. At around the time of the centenary event in April, he was told that he would have 43% less money this year to support his work. Saido posted an angry response online, saying he wasn’t given enough warning to find money to pay his staff and take care of his mice, which he says are sent to 250 laboratories around the world.

The problem is one of priorities, and is neatly demonstrated by a white paper published by Japan’s science ministry last month. It is dominated by discussion of innovation, and how to foster greater interaction between businesses and academia to achieve it. One way is to drain funds from more-basic science; as a result, universities and research institutes, including RIKEN, are getting squeezed.
Full report on the Nature site