Submission from the British Embassy in
REPORT ON JAPANESE OCEAN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
With more than 1,000 islands comprising the
archipelago, 34,390 kms of coastline, and the world's sixth largest
economic exclusion zone, Japan is a major international player
in ocean related research and development. Research strengths
include marine biology, deep-sea exploration and mapping and advanced
computer modeling of the effect of the ocean on climate change
and vice versa. World leading research facilities, including
the development of advanced submersibles, provides the underpinning
infrastructure for much of the research being undertaken.
1. Organisation, Structure and Funding
Six Government Ministries are involved in Ocean
related research and development. The most important ministry
is the Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology Ministry
(MEXT) which has a coordination role across Government for ocean
development and provides the secretariat for regular cross ministry
meetings. MEXT is also responsible for the Japan's largest marine
research institute, the Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science
and Technology (JAMSTEC).
Since 1990 the overall budget for marine science
and technology has gradually increased year on year. Total spend
on marine science and technology across Government is around £500
million, with MEXT (mainly JAMSTEC) accounting for £200 million
or 40% of the total (2006 figures).
In addition to MEXT, but of lesser importance
for ocean research in terms of funding and staff, is the Ministry
of Land Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT). MLIT is responsible
for the Japan Meteorological Agency which carries out general
oceanographic research and meteorology, and the Japan Coast Guard
which is mainly responsible for hydrographical observations and
There are also important centres of expertise
at Tokyo University's Ocean Research Institute, the Tokyo University
for Marine Science and Technology, and regionally at Tohoku, Kyoto
and Hokkaido universities.
2. Ocean Policy and Research
National strategic planning of science and technology
is carried out by the Council for Science and Technology (CSTP),
part of the Cabinet Office. CSTP is responsible for drawing up
successive five year plans for S&T, agreed at Cabinet level.
This current third basic five year plan, published in March 2006,
sets a target of 1% of GDP for S&T spend over the next five
Ocean research and development is a key policy
area for the Japanese Government. It makes significant contributions
to three of the eight priority areas in the 3rd basic plan, Environment,
Infrastructure and Frontiers. For example, two of the four major
themes in the Frontiers research priority area are focused on
deep ocean drilling and offshore platform construction research.
Japan's long-term ocean policy for the 21st
century was set out by the Council for Science and Technology
Subdivision on Ocean Development within MEXT in August 2002. The
policy stresses the sustainable use of the oceans for conservation,
research and resources, together with three research goals:
Applying new knowledge to ocean
conservation and use of marine resources.
Elucidating the mechanisms of
global warming and climate change.
Contributing to the expansion
of the intellectual assets of mankind.
3. Research Priorities
Research priorities include exploration of the
deep sea and sub seafloor, addressing global environmental problems
such as global warming, prevention of natural disasters (for example
high tides, tsunamis and sub floor landslides), conservation and
exploitation of marine resources, developing fundamental technologies
for supporting research and observation (for example, autonomous
underwater vehicles), and maintaining the necessary organisation
and infrastructure for research and development.
A key project, which is seen as critical to
national security, is the "Earth Observation and Ocean Exploration
System", a joint project between MEXT, JAXA (the national
space exploration agency), JAMSTEC and the University of Tokyo.
The project aims to fully integrate satellite earth observation
and ocean exploration data to improve Japan's ability to understand,
analyse and mitigate global environmental problems (for example,
global warming) and large-scale natural disasters. Within this
project. JAMSTEC leads on the development of advanced ocean exploration
JAMSTEC is the largest marine-earth science
research institute in Japan with over 1,100 staff, 30% of whom
are contract researchers. JAMSTEC undertakes fundamental research
and development on the oceans. It's main research centre (Institute
for Earth Sciences) and administrative headquarters are based
in Yokohama but it has regional offices and research institutes
in northern Japan (Mutsu Institute for Oceanography), Shikoku
(Kochi Institute for Core Sample research) and Okinawa (Global
Oceanic Data Centre). It also has four offices in the US, including
two research centres in Hawaii and Alaska which it operates jointly
with the US National Science Foundation.
JAMSTEC is organized into seven research centres
reflecting the key themes of research:
global change (observation and
modeling of climate, ocean circulation, atmosphere, hydrological
cycle and their interactions);
earth evolution (mantle-core,
tectonic plate dynamics, paleoenvironment);
extreme biosphere (marine biology
and ecology, extremophiles);
earth simulator centre (advanced
computational and simulation using one of the world's fastest
marine technology (ocean and
sub sea research vessels); and
A selection of the most important research activities
is given below. More detail can be found in a report of a recent
JAMSTEC seminar, see Annex 1.
4.1 Marine Technology
JAMSTEC has developed some of the most advanced
marine technology in the world. It operates eight research vessels,
including the deep sea drilling ship "Chikyu", which
was launched in 2005 with the capability of drilling in 2,500
metres of water. "Chikyu" will be used to attempt to
drill down through the seabed to the earth's mantle.
JAMSTEC also holds world depth records for manned
and remotely operated submersibles. The autonomous underwater
vehicle (AUV) "Urashima" is the largest AUV of its kind
in the world. It is capable of diving to a maximum depth of 3,500
metres and is powered by a closed system fuel cell, with an energy
efficiency of 54% (the highest yet achieved in the world). Operations
are mainly aimed at detailed seafloor mapping and sub sea floor
profiling. The manned submersible "Shinkai" can operate
at depths of 6,500 metres and the remotely operated submersible
"Kaiko" has a maximum operational depth of 7,000 metres.
4.2 Climate Change
JAMSTEC hosts the Earth Simulator, a 40 Tflops
supercomputer, ranked as the word's fastest supercomputer in 2004.
The UK-Japan Climate Change Modelling Collaboration is based at
the Earth Simulator in Yokohama, see below. Although not used
exclusively for ocean research, the Earth Simulator has enabled
Japanese scientists to better understand the significant role
the ocean plays in global warming and other climate studies and
to more accurately model future long term climate change scenarios.
Output from the Erath Simulator is being used to inform the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports.
4.3 Marine Resources
The advanced marine technology developed by
JAMSTEC, see above, has led to significant research strengths
in investigating the potential of the oceans for bio and mineral
resources. JAMSTEC has built up a strong research capability in
marine genetics, through the collection and analysis of new species
of deep sea bacteria and extremophiles. JAMSTEC's deep sea drilling
capability will also be used in the future to explore the feasibility
of exploiting the considerable reserves of methane hydrate in
the sea bed around Japan as a future energy source. It is estimated
that there is sufficient methane hydrate reserves to meet domestic
consumption of natural gas for 100 years.
5. International Co-operation on Ocean Research
The US is the single most important partner
in ocean research and development but JAMSTEC also has research
collaboration agreements with Korea, Indonesia, Australia and
There is no formal agreement with the UK on
ocean research, but collaboration does take place on an individual
project basis, the best example of which is the UK-Japan Climate
Change Modelling Collaboration (UJCC). This three year collaboration
facilitated by the British Embassy in Tokyo, started in 2005 and
brings together top UK climate modellers from the Met Office Hadley
Centre, NERC's National Centre for Atmospheric Science at Reading
University and Japanese researchers based at the Earth Simulator.
The collaboration has enabled UK climate models to be developed
with higher resolution. The collaboration has significantly advanced
scientific knowledge of the role of the oceans in climate change.
6. Education and Training
Recently the number of doctorate and post doc
marine scientists in Japan has increased resulting in a steady
stream of new talent. The Frontier Research Group at JAMSTEC which
undertakes fundamental and blue sky research on the oceans recruits
internationally for post docs in an open competition to attract
the best researchers. In some groups the proportion of international
researchers is higher than Japanese researchers.