Greeting from the Director General
Director-General, National Institute of Informatics
Inter-University Research Institute Corporation
Research Organization of Information and Systems
From data platforms to knowledge platforms
Since computers first emerged in the mid-20th century, informatics has had a far-reaching impact on society and the academic world. The invention of the World Wide Web (WWW) thirty years ago fundamentally changed how information was released and circulated, how information was revolutionizing the very structure of society. In the last decade, there have been incredible developments in deep learning: AlphaFold's prediction of protein structures has revolutionized life sciences research, while the DeepL machine translation system, trained with vast quantities of bilingual data from the web, is transforming the way we communicate. Recently, the news is full of stories about ChatGPT, the AI chatbot that can write essays of a good enough level to pass regular university exams. A future of complete coexistence between AI and humans is approaching faster than we can imagine. Meanwhile, modern society is grappling with problems including environmental issues, inequality, and regional conflicts. The human race is suffering in a world of contradictions. To tackle complex social issues, design a world where AI and humans coexist, and bring true peace of mind for everyone, it will require cooperation between different areas of academic research, including the humanities and social sciences. Preparing the groundwork to make this possible is a matter of urgency.
The importance of data is a clear trend in science and society in the 21st century. Significant scientific progress is being made by creating data from observations and measurements, and digitizing and making the data openly available for discussion and utilization. In Japan, the National Institute of Informatics (NII) has been instrumental in developing research data platforms, culminating in the latest SINET6 network.
One problem in promoting collaboration between different areas of academic research is that experts in a particular field are amateurs when it comes to other fields, so it is not easy to get an overview of various fields and utilize data directly. In order to deepen future academic research as comprehensive knowledge to address complex social issues, it will be necessary to automate the process of interpreting data, interconnecting and systematizing knowledge, and building knowledge platforms to support the creation of new cross-disciplinary knowledge.
The need for such platforms was first pointed out more than a decade ago. Now that data platforms are in place, people are starting to realize the value of making data openly available, and it is becoming possible to interpret papers and multimedia data using AI foundation models stemming from machine translation research. Thus, the time has finally come for us to focus on building a knowledge platform. However, building an AI-foundation model requires large-scale computational resources, and the growing oligopoly by some international companies is a major issue. I believe that in Japan, we need to work together as a nation to establish systems for research, development, and operation of AI-foundation models and to work on constructing knowledge platforms.
In this time of rapid social change, I have been appointed as Director-General of NII from April 2023. As an inter-university research institute and also the core organization for informatics in Japan, the NII has responded to the needs of society through our two areas of work: research and services under the leadership of previous directors.
Furthermore, we engage in informatics research from basic theory to cutting-edge topics, and our work provides academic networks and research data platforms. Additionally, we aim to build step by step a knowledge platform that will form the foundation for collaboration in academic research.