RIKEN was reborn as a newly implemented status of “National Research and Development Institute” (NRDI) on April 1, 2015. Until then, RIKEN had been operated as one of the Independent Administrative Institutions (IAIs). IAIs were divided into three categories according to their operations in order to maximize their functions. It was recognized that institutions whose major operations are Research and Development (R&D) need to be treated differently from other IAIs in light of the characteristics of R&D such as long-term nature, uncertainty, unpredictability, and specialty. RIKEN was thus designated as NRDI to execute its activities in accordance with a plan for achieving the objectives for a medium to long term and thereby maximizing its R&D achievements in order to contribute to the healthy development of the national economy and other public interests through improving the level of science and technology in Japan. By this restructuring, dramatic improvements in achieving the goals and aims of NRDI are expected. As a former IAI, the goals and aims of RIKEN were focused to efficiency and effectiveness of its operation and improvement of quality of its service. The Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) now evaluates our activities directly. The whole system is more consistent with the original raison d’etre of RIKEN. Under the newly established status of NRDI, the activities of RIKEN BioResource Center (BRC) will be evaluated more appropriately, giving back more of the benefits to research community and the society.
Since last year, a series of scandals including the STAP affair have raised questions about the quality of life science research in our country. The MEXT enacted a guideline to prevent further instances of research misconduct, and RIKEN also set its regulations in accordance with that measure. At present, all its staff members are given guidance and educated accordingly. In particular, young researchers and students are instructed in a personalized manner by mentors. In order to restore public confidence, RIKEN will make continued its efforts to penetrate the minds of staff thoroughly with the moral that misconducts are absolutely unacceptable in seeking truth in science.
Although totally different in nature from the research misconducts, some kind of incidents have frequently happened in life science that research results cannot be reproduced by third party due to defects in experiment materials (bioresources) and inaccurate information associated with them, damaging the reputation of science. This is not only a national issue but rather a global issue of common concerns, and therefore, a group of editors representing major journals, representatives from funding agencies in the USA, and scientific leaders endorsed guidelines for biomedical research in June 2014. Among those guidelines, it is required that bioresources they use should be deposited to repositories for sharing materials among fellow scientists and that bioresources should be described in the publications with detail information such as the source, species, strain, characteristics, details of modified genes, microbial contamination status, etc. This means that responsibility as well as expectation on our Center has been enlarged. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that there are incidents of bioresources with defects such as contaminations or misidentifications in nearly 10 percent of the bioresources used for research around the world. The presence of bioresources with defects is a truly undesirable reality for research community, government, and funding agencies and should never be proud of. We believe that, by conducting rigorous quality control and distributing bioresources with eliminated possibility of defects, we can improve research reproducibility and increase the efficiency of research, thereby making a significant contribution to the recovery of trust in life science from the public. We are to fulfil our obligations pertaining to quality control, release information both to research community and to the public, and enhance our enlightening activities on the importance of using authentic bioresources.
RIKEN BRC will strive to collect and offer bioresources of world highest standard upon our three founding principles “Trust,” “Sustainability,” and “Leadership,” with the aim to contribute to development of life science, improvement of quality of life and welfare in our society, and sustainable development of human beings. We hope that we may rely on the understanding and continued support by all stakeholders.