Full Text
Home > Policy > White Paper, Notice, Announcement > White Paper > JAPANESE GOVERNMENT POLICES IN EDUCATION, SCIENCE, SPORTS AND CULTURE 1997 > Scientific Research Chapter 2 Section 2 2

Scientific Research: Opening the Door to the Future
Chapter 2 Basic Policies for the Promotion of Science
Section 2: Enhancing Research Organizations' Ability to Promote Scientific Research
2. Increasing Flexibility and Fluidity in Research Organizations

(1) New Developments for Research Organizations

Scientific research derives from researchers' unfettered concepts and spans all disciplines from the humanities and social sciences to the natural sciences. As research becomes increasingly diverse and multidisciplinary, MESSC is actively promoting flexibility and mobility in research organizations at national universities to enable them to maintain their dynamism.

(a) Introduction of a large departmental system

: As scientific research becomes more diverse and multidisciplinary, researchers in a growing number of fields are finding it appropriate to link existing research organizations (which normally consist of one professor, one assistant professor, and two assistants) into larger structures based on loose ties among related fields (the so-called large departmental system).

Since FY1978, the large departmental system has been applied when it was felt that linking two or more research departments into single large departments would make them better able to respond appropriately to research trends. In FY 1997 10 research departments at the Cancer Research Institute, Kanazawa University, were joined in three large departments, while 1 5 research departments at the Research Institute for Applied Mechanics, Kyushu University, were grouped into three large departments. The aim of these organizational changes was to develop new approaches to scientific research, and benefits deriving from them include the following:

(i) Joint research has been facilitated by linking research groups through professors working in related fields;
(ii) It is easier to respond to new fields and borderline areas;
(iii) Skilled researchers can easily be deployed as required;
(iv) Organized international cooperation has been facilitated.

(b) Establishing flexible research organizations

: Promoting flexible research organizations and fluidity on the part of researchers has become an important goal in recent years due to the rapidly growing tendency of scientific research to become more diverse, comprehensive, and large-scale, as well as to the growing importance of interdisciplinary research and the need to maintain the dynamism of research organizations. MESSC is therefore working to develop flexible research organizations that have a certain degree of permanence as organizations but allow research themes and researchers to be changed periodically. Examples of such organizations established over the past few years include the University of Tokyo's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (established in FY 1 987). Tsukuba University's Center for Tsukuba Advanced Research Alliance (FY1994), Tohoku University's Center for Interdisciplinary Research (FY1995), and Nagoya University's Center for Integrated Research in Science and Engineering (FY1995). These organizations are contributing to the promotion of multidisciplinary, germinal, and advanced research.

In fiscal 1997 the Center for Advanced Research Projects was established at Osaka University to provide specific research teams with a place for intensive joint research over limited periods. When a project has been completed, the research team leaves, vacating its space for use by another research team, thus providing the basis for flexible organizational management.

(c) Establishing research departments to promote researcher mobility

: Promoting researcher mobility is important to the development of dynamic research organizations. To achieve this goal, MESSC is setting up visiting researcher departments, flexible research departments, and endowed chairs and research departments.

Visiting researcher departments are structured to accommodate interdisciplinary research, for which research organizations with fixed staff allocations are unsuitable. They also respond to the need for "open research" resulting from the fluidity of disciplinary boundaries that occurs in research involving the complex intermeshing of related fields. Instead of fixed allocations of personnel, these departments utilize researchers from other universities. At present (FY 1997) there are 17 1 such research departments.

Flexible research departments are established by transferring researchers, and the fixed number of staff assigned to them, from existing research departments in national universities to research institutes to participate for specific periods in joint research projects involving multiple universities. At present (FY1997) there are three such departments in the Institute for Molecular Science at Okazaki National Research Institutes and two in Kyushu University's Institute for Fundamental Research of Organic Chemistry.

Endowed chairs and research departments are created at the request of donors. As of June 1 997, 48 endowed chairs had been established at 26 national universities ( Table 3-4 ).

(d) Promoting joint use

: Increasingly sophisticated research tools and methods have heightened the need for university research organizations that allow researchers from many fields to conduct joint research. The benefits of such organizations are already apparent.

MESSC has responded to trends in scientific research and the needs of society by promoting the formation of joint research systems. It has established 14 inter-university research institutes (independent institutes that are not attached to specific national universities), 20 research institutes for joint use attached to national universities, and 26 research facilities attached to national universities for joint use (institutes and facilities set up within specific national universities).

In FY1997 MESSC created the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (an inter-university research institute), restructured the Research Institute for Applied Mechanics, Kyushu University, as research institute for joint use attached to a national university, and established the Research Center for Pathogenic Fungi and Microbial Toxicoses, a national joint-use facility in the field of pathology, at Chiba University.

(e) Development of international research bases

: Because of the size of the facilities required, research in fields like astronomy, accelerator science, space science, and fusion is carried out mainly by inter-university research institutes. In addition to their role as national research hubs, these facilities also function as international research bases where Japanese researchers are actively engaged in projects with researchers from around the world.

The Science and Technology Basic Plan identifies the development of these international research bases as an important, government-wide policy. MESSC is actively promoting this as a priority policy with the potential to raise research standards in Japan and contribute to research worldwide.

Subaru, the large infrared telescope currently under construction in Hawaii.

In FY 1997 MESSC created the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization to serve as an integrated research base for accelerator science, including not only particle physics, but also nuclear physics and research into the properties of mesons and muons. Also in fiscal 1997, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan was established in Hawaii to provide a base for research relating to a large-scale infrared telescope that is currently under construction there. Efforts are also being made to bolster the research organizations at other research bases, such as the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science and the National Institute for Fusion Science, which are actively involved in basic research in many fields.

(2) Introduction of a Selective Fixed-Term System for University Faculty Members

Researchers in Japanese universities and research institutes generally lack mobility, remaining tied to specific research venues. Because of this, research environments tend to be made up of people with homogeneous, uniform approaches that result in similar ideas and little opportunity for reciprocal criticism or competition. It is sometimes pointed out that this situation can hinder efforts to foster originality in researchers and revitalize research activities.

In 1997 the 140th session of Japan's National Diet passed the Law Concerning the Fixed-Term Appointment of Faculty Members at Universities, which provides for selective fixed-term systems to be introduced at the discretion of individual universities as a way of increasing researchers' mobility and revitalizing university research, Under any of the following circumstances, the law allows people to be appointed for fixed terms, subject to the agreement of the individuals concerned:

(i) When a person is to be recruited for a post in an educational or research organization that requires diverse human resources (flexible jobs);
(ii) When a person is to be recruited as an assistant primarily to carry out research (research assistant positions);
(iii) When a person is to be recruited for an educational or research post over a predetermined period under a specific project (project jobs).

A new employment framework has also been developed for government research workers in national experiment and research institutes with the aim of revitalizing research activities in these organizations. The same session of the Diet passed the Law Concerning the Special Measure for the Recruitment, Remuneration and Working Hours of Researchers with Fixed Terms in the Regular Service, which provides for the application of a tenure system under certain circumstances.

(C)COPYRIGHT Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

Back to Top   MEXT HOME