Greeting from the Director General
Our multidisciplinary approach to research makes the National Institute of Informatics unique in Japanese academia. Beginning with basic research valued from the long-term view, NII is pushing ahead with practical studies aimed at resolving current social problems. At the same time, operations developed by this inter-university research institute--such as providing state-of-the-art information infrastructures, content systems, and related services--have become vital to the conduct of research and instructional activities throughout the academic community.
The Science Information Network (SINET) is one project that underscores NII's efforts to have research and operations act in tandem. It has supported Japan's academic infrastructure since its start in 1992. In 2007, the network was upgraded to SINET3 with a world-leading communications speed of 40 Gbps. SINET4, which came online in 2011, demonstrated enhanced operations reliability and durability by withstanding the Great East Japan Earthquake. The transition to SINET5 in April 2016 heralded the arrival of 100-Gbps connectivity between Japan's prefectures and the augmentation of links with the United States. From either a regional or global perspective, SINET is a powerful network. Clearly its construction over the past 25 years has been extremely significant for Japan's academic community.
Big Data is a term often tossed around these days. Environments that enable casual exchanges of lots of data are indispensable for scientific projects to keep their edge. Amid demands by Big Science for computer resources that can deal with voluminous amounts of experimental data, cooperation on data exchanges across borders and regions is becoming commonplace. For that reason, the 100-Gbps SINET5 has received a triple endorsement from the Japan Association of National Universities, the Japan Association of Municipal and Prefectural Colleges and Universities, and the Federation of Japanese Private Colleges and Universities Associations. We are grateful for their backing and for the support received from many others, including the recommendation of the Science Council of Japan.
The shift to SINET5 will play a big part in cloud computerization at universities. A surge in off-site communications traffic will accompany cloud computerization supported by 100-Gbps SINET5. The huge cost savings likely through cloud-enhanced consolidation of university computing resources are expected to accelerate the currents favoring the conduct of open science. We are expecting new scientific applications such as the delivery of 8K-video instructional materials for medical use. This fiscal year we began work with the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development to support medical-image data sharing and remote examinations. The application of SINET at actual healthcare sites is evolving along with advanced utilization of academic information.
The focus of NII is open science. The unfolding of the informatics field is influencing science and technology research. Traditionally scientific expertise was passed along in articles and books, but responsibility for this task is shifting in this era of open science involving collective ownership of research data itself. With their gaze fixed on the changing times, a number of universities are aiming to construct infrastructures for sharing research data, utilizing SINET5, a remarkable, high-speed network. Data sharing takes a variety of forms. Access to data may be open to the general public or limited to designated researchers and organizations. Refinements to the technology of data sharing come out in GakuNin Cloud, the inter-university authentication service provided by NII. In a similar vein, the idea behind the Research Center for Open Science and Data Platform, established in April 2017, is to promote the use and application of research data among universities and institutions in Japan. GakuNin Cloud is adding to the future development of open science by serving as the gateway that connects universities and research institutions with research data and with cloud-driven research infrastructures.
In fiscal 2015, NII opened the Center for Cloud Research and Development. American university projects at the time were beginning not only to take over cloud resources from cloud vendors but also to do research on cloud computing itself. It could be said that cloud research had entered a new stage. Our intention has been to spur next-generation cloud research that is completely different. So, in fiscal 2016, NII opened the Center for Cybersecurity Research and Development "to protect the security of academic networks." We feel duty-bound to provide cybersecurity-related information and technical support to universities and research institutions. We also strive to build the training infrastructures needed to prepare talented prospects for the responsibilities of managing cybersecurity.
As NII puts much effort into encouraging academic-industrial collaboration, in February 2016 we established the Research Center for Financial Smart Data. Until recently it was unheard of anywhere for an information systems research facility to engage in the financial sphere. After processing and analyzing finance-related Big Data, NII takes up the challenge of converting "financial smart data" into useful knowledge. Those efforts have enabled us to answer requests to clarify complex economic and social phenomena. The research center is the first that NII has established with private sector funding of research activities and operations. Another facility that deals with real-world issues is the Cognitive Innovation Center, which was established to foster innovation that brings reforms to Japanese society and industry. In the new stage of artificial intelligence (AI), which is leveraged by deep learning, we are working together with enterprises toward development of diverse solutions.
In addition to operations like SINET, NII conducts basic research in the AI-inclusive field of informatics as well as concurrent applied research aimed at implementing beneficial developments in society. Moreover, it is one of the few institutions in the world performing feedback on such research. In recent years the tendency has been to stress only the "by IT" aspect of IT. We prefer the balanced "of IT" approach, emphasizing the strength of flexible research systems.
The Fifth Science and Technology Basic Plan approved by the Japanese government highlights the role of IT in describing the new vision for "Society 5.0." As basic research on IT steadily advances, NII's intention with regard to the realization of Society 5.0 is to work on IT-related solutions to social problems and to contribute to data-sharing platforms. Of course, all development won't happen at NII. The idea is to push ahead with various academic institutions, thinking and creating together.
Finally a word about education. The National Institute of Informatics considers this field so important that it offers informatics-related courses leading to doctoral programs at the Graduate University for Advanced Studies. NII coordinates with a number of universities and graduate schools. "Making full use of IT education and IT" in Japan reflects our policy commitment to having more and more students master the foundations of IT. We are delighted that discussion has begun in Japan, as it has in Britain, on teaching computer programming starting in elementary school. After all, do not education and the elucidation of life's mysteries go hand in hand with IT?
Take a look at the descriptions of the research activities and operations that engage NII and feel free to share your thoughts with us. We appreciate your continued support.
Director General, National Institute of Informatics