Address from the Honorary President

"New Method of Knowledge Creation"

Hiroyuki Yoshikawa

  Some people say that basic research is not applicable to everyday life. This, however, is absolutely incorrect. The majority of the knowledge that we use every day is based upon understanding which has been accumulated through basic research. Human science exists behind our thoughts and emotions and social science exists behind our activities in society. Though these sciences do not seem to serve our actions directly, we must recognize that they sometimes position, indicate, and steer our thoughts and actions indirectly. Moreover, we should understand that the social consistency composed of diversified human values can only remain peaceful with the aid of these sciences. Conflicts and disputes due to the difference of values will be cooled down by scientific understanding one another. This is more obvious in natural science. Almost all modern technologies are based on natural science and it has become common for companies to try to improve their international competitiveness by finding applications for science and science-based technologies. We recognize that most of our intellectual activities in society are dependent on the knowledge systems of human, social, and natural sciences.

  Therefore, science benefits us. The benefits, however, sometimes come at a cost. The increasing disparities in knowledge amongst nations and the destruction of the global environment are typical examples of the negative consequences of the rapid progress of science. It is incorrect to assume, however, that these problems are a direct result of scientific knowledge. Rather, we should understand that scientific knowledge is not yet complete and that it is the gaps in our knowledge that cause such issues to emerge. Therefore, we need to develop more knowledge to eliminate the inconsistencies in our current understanding. In order to improve the quality of our knowledge we need to derive new methodologies by engaging in basic research that differs from the conventional.

  There are groups of scientists who endeavour to fight the misconception that basic research is useless. They conduct basic research that aims to create a new kind of knowledge which will offer necessary base directly to human thoughts and actions. Their aim is not included within that of conventional basic research because these researchers try to create knowledge different from the conventional knowledge characterized by particular disciplines. They expand on the definition of basic research, moving away from the idea that it only takes place in individual disciplines towards the view that it should integrate knowledge from different disciplines.

  Members of The “Transdisciplinary Federation of Science and Technology ” (OUKAN) are proud of being representatives of these groups. OUKAN is a consortium of comparatively small academic societies, each with a particular practical target. Their usual performance is specialized only to create new knowledge necessary for the particular target. The knowledge they create is new, special, and useful for solving given problems in a particular domain. They know, however, that they cannot construct real systems solely by applying new knowledge from their own disciplines. For example, when a new device is invented which enables the creation of electronic systems with higher energy efficiency in the field of oxide materials, the inventors recognize that they need help from researchers from other disciplines such as electronics, mechanics, dynamics, metrology, manufacturing, and perhaps even economics and management, in order to realize systems that can be utilized in the real world.

  Traditionally, scientists have not always been interested in the practical applications of their research beyond the publication of their results. They believed that the application of their research could be done by practitioners in society. The researchers of OUKAN, however, do not abandon their results in this way; rather they try to push their knowledge towards the development of practical applications. For this, it is essential to integrate knowledge through collaboration and communication with researchers from different disciplines, and with researchers who are not afraid to integrate results from other disciplines.

  Sometimes it seems that scientists focus their efforts on solving immediate problems. This is, needless to say, an important task. However, their endeavours definitely imply another task, or an academic movement, to theoretically overcome limit that the disciplinary knowledge inevitably assumes, through clarification of the relationship between knowledge and action of humans.

  In recent years, scientific knowledge has surrendered some of its applicability due to excessive fragmentation. Over the past ten years, members of the Science Council of Japan have discussed how to solve this problem by taking a “bird’s-eye view” approach that integrates the different domains of science, including natural, social, and human sciences. The activities of OUKAN will go one step beyond the discussions of the Science Council of Japan by putting knowledge into practice in society, especially as it relates to industry. It is expected that through interdisciplinary collaboration and through cooperation between academia and industry, they will be able to generate a new method of knowledge creation for basic research.

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