The government will add Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (Kaken-hi) to the list of funds whose recipients (research laboratories) must disclose funding from foreign entities. The measure aims to prevent dual-use advanced technology from leaking overseas. Kaken-hi is provided by an independent administrative agency, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Originally, the government planned to limit the application of the new rule to four government organizations, such as the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). It is hoped that inclusion of a broader range of funds will increase effectiveness of Japan’s security measures.
Detailed guidelines for the disclosure requirement will be issued after a discussion between related ministries and agencies, but some aspects are already clear. For example, if a laboratory is found to have filed a false disclosure, funding to the group would be withdrawn. Along with funding sources, the government is considering the mandatory disclosure of detailed professional and academic bios of foreign researchers and students who are involved in research. Additionally, the laboratories are likely to be required to put in place preventive measures against leakage to receive government funding.
These rules could become effective as early as FY 2022. At the moment, government research grants can be allocated without disclosure of foreign funding/personnel sources. Even for research projects viewed important by the government, there is no means to satisfactorily identify instances of foreign intervention, including by Chinese government.
Contact between research laboratories and foreign governments/companies has important implications for the country’s economic security. By implementing new reporting rules, the government hopes to encourage laboratories and researchers to voluntarily avoid establishing relationships with foreign nations that may be involved in espionage and to stop accepting their researchers.
The move is in step with recent U.S. policy. The U.S. government is emphasizing the importance of economic security and strengthening countermeasures against Chinese espionage. It now requires U.S. universities and research organizations to implement preventive measures against leakage. It also limits or halts funding for those organizations that violate the rules.
As U.S. President Donald Trump expresses deep suspicion of Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei, an increasing number of universities are shelving joint research projects that involve China and declining funding from Chinese companies.
In January, a Harvard professor was indicted for failing to report his involvement in a Chinese national project and offering false explanations afterwards.
Initially, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), as well as the Cabinet Office, exempted recipients of Kaken-hi from the mandatory disclosure of the origins of their research funding. This is different from the rules governing distribution of funds from the four government organizations. Some in the government as well as the ruling parties have claimed that the different rules applied to recipients of the same tax-based funding is inexplicable.
According to MEXT, 196.2 billion yen (84,000 projects) in Kaken-hi research funds was distributed to universities in FY 2018, constituting an important resource for researchers. Other government research funds, mostly from four government institutions, totaled 2.621 billion yen in the same fiscal year, while the private sector provided 2.240 billion yen.
Kaken-hi is granted widely to universities in Japan. It is a typical competitive fund offered to the best candidate in a specific field of research.
A variety of recipients involved in both basic and applied research projects receive Kaken-hi, which covers a wide range of expenses from equipment for experiments to wages for post-doctoral researchers.
Kaken-hi is available for a broad spectrum of research, encouraging researchers to freely pursue projects.. There is a Nobel laureate among its recipients. Even a small amount of public funds attracts foreign funding to universities’ research and development projects, whose cost as a whole totals approximately at 3.6 trillion yen.
Meanwhile, research grants from four government institutions are often offered for applied research projects based on pre-designated themes that are already close to commercialization. Many of these are joint projects with private corporations.