2021 New Year’s Address
A Happy New Year to you all.
I sincerely hope that 2021 will be a fruitful and successful year for you, your families, and for KEK. Last year, and in a very short time, the global spread of the coronavirus pandemic transformed our world into something very different to what it used to be. I understand that all of you at KEK have had many anxious days. Adding to this anxiety is the continued uncertainty about the future, and I myself have found it difficult to remain cheerful in these circumstances. I therefore want to begin this year with the earnest expectation that, in the not too distant future, vaccines will begin to make a difference and we will be able to return to our former lives.
Now, at the beginning of 2021, I want to remind everyone that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of KEK. The forerunner of KEK, the National Laboratory for High Energy Physics, was established in 1971 as the first research laboratory for inter-university research, with the Institute of Nuclear Study (a research laboratory connected to the University of Tokyo) as its parent body. In the 50 years since, together with university researchers, the laboratory has made advances in science through the use of particle accelerators.
In 2004, the organization was incorporated and our way of doing things changed significantly, but throughout our history, the principle of “inter-university research” has continued to remain the central rationale behind our existence. Based on this principle, we have been involved in academic research with universities in many fields, and we should be very proud to have contributed to maintaining and raising the level of Japanese research. No single university could afford to own such a large-scale research facility as an accelerator, and so the idea of building one for inter-university research, with university and other researchers sharing its use, is what drove KEK’s creation. Since then, many other inter-university research institutes have been established, with their role and makeup changing with the times. The idea has emerged that joint research is just one aspect of shared use, in the sense that researchers share not only physical facilities and equipment, but also important data and resources, as well as the organizations and systems within which research takes place.
Amid such changes, KEK has continued to follow the same path, working to improve the performance of the particle accelerator and through it to create new science with university researchers. Such an approach is truly useful for academic research, and works effectively to generate results from research. This is why, through all the changes of the past 50 years, we have been able to unwaveringly fulfill our role in inter-university research. Once again, I cannot help but admire and respect the remarkable insight and efforts of our predecessors, who half a century ago raised the standard for inter-university research and founded KEK.
KEK itself has undergone many changes in the past 50 years, but I believe that the most significant of these is the great advance in internationalization. Combining our Tsukuba and Tokai locations, foreign researchers staying at KEK account for 30,000 person-days over the year, and our organization has developed into a research institute widely recognized as a world-class research center for accelerator science. In other words, we have transformed from a domestic inter-university research institute into an international joint research institute, and we serve as a base camp for when Japanese researchers participate in overseas research. Especially in the field of high energy physics, global researchers move through a borderless world in search of superior research facilities, and a research model has been established that produces results based on the cooperation and competition of a broad range of researchers. There is no doubt in my mind that our ability to play a part in this global network is thanks to the efforts of our predecessors and all our staff members. We should be proud of this achievement.
It is unfortunate that this borderless, circulating research model has, for the time being, become difficult to maintain due to the coronavirus pandemic that began early last year; but I am also encouraged to see that everyone involved is applying his or her wisdom so that the research can continue. I hope that we can redouble our efforts and turn this crisis into an opportunity, in order to establish new research models that can function effectively even after the pandemic has subsided. Other research institutions around the world are facing the same challenges, and I very much hope that we can work together to establish a new global research style.
Over its long 50-year history, KEK has, together with university researchers, pursued the principle of inter-university research to advance science. But what principles and ideas should guide us over the next 50 years? Although our commitment to inter-university research will not waver, the form it takes must adapt to the growing scale of research and the progress of internationalization. What society requires from research institutions is also changing significantly, and in Japan, the era when we could assume robust economic growth is over.
How, then, should KEK change in order to remain a meaningful player in the future, to be even more involved in academic research with universities in many fields, and to help maintain and raise the level of Japanese research? I believe that as we reach our half-century milestone, now is the time to seek out wisdom that goes beyond the intellectual assets that we inherited from our predecessors. The path that KEK will tread will not always be smooth, nor will it always run straight, but I believe that basic scientific research that strives to reveal the actual substance of nature and matter at a fundamental level is among the most noble of human endeavors. All of you at KEK have a role to play in advancing or directly supporting this endeavor.
I would thus like to ask all of you to take pride in your roles, and strive together to make 2021 a truly fruitful year. I and our executive directors will do everything in our power to support you in pursuing this goal.
Director General, High Energy Accelerator Research Organization
January 12, 2021