Japan and the United States Eye Cooperation in Disaster Research

Eye on disasters. NSF administrator Subra Suresh sees research opportunities in disaster prevention and management.

U.S. National Science Foundation

TOKYO—The director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Subra Suresh, said here today that one of the next areas of bilateral cooperation with Japan is likely to be in the area of disaster prevention, mitigation, and management. Suresh is in Japan for discussions on collaborative research.

He said one lesson from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident of March 2011 was the need to handle vast volumes of data in real time and provide open access so that scientists around the world can better analyze what's happening. He expects a second focus to be on social behavior in disaster mitigation and response. "That is an integral part of how we prepare for disasters and how we handle them," he said.

Recognition of the importance of disaster issues partly grew out of NSF's Rapid Response Research program that enables scientists to investigate disasters and other unexpected or quickly changing phenomena. American scientists used the support to study rescue robotics, the effect of radiation on wildlife, and other topics soon after the earthquake. NSF and Japan's ministry of education are still discussing the specific research topics to be covered under the new collaboration. Suresh is hoping for an agreement soon.

The materials scientist is on his first trip to Japan as NSF director and is meeting with counterparts, visiting laboratories, giving lectures, and traveling through the Tohoku region for a firsthand look at the consequences of the disaster. He said NSF and Japanese officials seek to broaden Japan's role in the newly created Global Research Council, which brings together research funding agencies, and to expand student and researcher exchanges.