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Presentation at the 5th Conference of Asian University Presidents
Motoyuki ONO

November 28, 2004

 

Professor Kajiyama, President of Kyushu University, presidents and delegates from distinguished Asian universities, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. It is my great honor to be here and to say a few words to you this morning. First, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the organizers who have prepared this significant conference, and to all the speakers and participants who have made this conference highly successful.

Today, I would like to introduce to you JSPS, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and its programs with Asian countries.

As you know, the main theme of this conference is "Quality Assurance for Universities in Asia—New Directions and Future Challenges." The main function of JSPS is to support universities in improving their domestic and international research activities, and, as I will show you later in my presentation, one of our objectives is to make Asia one of the three major research centers in the world. I hope this presentation will help you give some ideas about how to improve the research activities of your universities.

(JSPS at a Glance)
First, I'd like to take a little time to briefly describe JSPS. JSPS was established in 1932. Since then, for over 70 years, JSPS has initiated and carried out a wide range of programs as a core agency promoting Japanese science.

JSPS is a research funding agency working to support universities and research institutions. Our programs cover all fields of sciences, including humanities and social sciences.

Our annual budget is nearly $2 billion.

(Budget of JSPS)
There has been a steady increase in JSPS's budget. This year, our budget reached almost 2 billion dollars, or 200 billion yen. A big problem is that we have only 99 employees. However, this shows how efficiently JSPS runs its programs.

(Funding by Program)
Most of this money goes to the universities as competitive research grants, which we call Grants-in-Aid, or "KAKENHI" in Japanese. These grants are a major source of funding for university researchers in Japan. Consequently, our budget increase is due to the government's initiative to increase the volume of Grants-in-Aid in order to promote scientific research.

Actually, JSPS operates two types of Grants-in-Aid programs: one is awarded by JSPS, and the other is awarded by MEXT, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, after a screening process is undertaken by JSPS.

The second largest program is the "twenty-first century COE program." COE stands for Center of Excellence. This program was established in 2002, in order to promote the development of universities with world-standard research and educational bases. The program cultivates a competitive academic environment among Japanese universities by giving targeted support in a range of disciplines.

Our budget for international programs is about 12 billion yen, or about 110 million dollars. This looks small, compared to other programs, but I am sure you would agree 110 million dollars purely for international cooperation is not a small figure.

(Funding by Research Field)
Among the research fields, humanities and social sciences account for about 18%, science and engineering: 35%, and bioscience: 46%. The grants are awarded after a strict process of peer review.

(Recent Development at JSPS)
Along with the wide range of reform with the Japanese government, JSPS is now in a period of epochal change.

First, JSPS became an "independent administrative institution" last October. Before that, JSPS's operations were under the supervision of MEXT. Now, JSPS has more autonomy for day-to-day operations and management within a broad governmental policy framework. However, there is another side to the coin: JSPS has to set up 5-year objectives and plans in terms of how to improve the quality of our services. Our activities have to be monitored and evaluated by MEXT.

Another development is the establishment of the "Research Center for Science Systems" last July. The center is staffed by frontline researchers as program officers who play key roles in our research grant programs, including their planning, selection and evaluation. This system makes it possible to better reflect researcher's needs and views in the implementation of our grant programs.

(Mission and Programs of JSPS)
JSPS has three major missions in its mid-term objectives and mid-term plan: funding for scientific research, fostering researchers, and promoting international cooperation.

For the first mission, we have programs like Grants-in-Aid and the twenty-first century COE program, which I already mentioned.

Our second mission is to foster young researchers who will play an important role in future scientific activities. For this mission, we have fellowship programs for doctor-course students and postdoctoral researchers.

The third mission, and the main topic for today's presentation, is promoting international cooperation. To achieve this mission, we have a variety of programs that can be divided into two categories: fellowships for foreign researchers, and bilateral and multilateral programs.

(Fellowship Programs)
Now, I would like to start introducing our international programs from the fellowship programs for foreign researchers.

Fellowship programs provide funding for inviting overseas researchers to Japanese universities and research institutions.

JSPS is now operating three types of fellowship programs. The first one is the fellowship for postdoctoral researchers. This is a program to invite young researchers from overseas. In providing such opportunities, the program seeks to assist the young fellows in advancing their own research while stimulating Japanese academic circles of young generations.

The second one is the invitation fellowship program. This is a fellowship for senior scientists. The fellows are invited to Japan to conduct various scientific activities, such as holding discussions with Japanese researchers, participating in seminars, and giving lectures.

The third one is the JSPS Award for Eminent Scientists. This is a program which invites scientists with a record of excellent research, such as Nobel laureates, to Japan.

(Number of Fellows from Abroad)
As for the postdoctoral fellowship, two-thirds of the fellows are coming from Asian countries. It shows the important role JSPS plays in supporting and fostering young Asian researchers. When you see the numbers by country, the top 3 are all Asian countries. As for the invitation fellowship, about 30% are from Asian countries. When you look at the numbers by country, 3 in the top 6 are Asian countries.

(Bilateral & Multilateral Programs)
Now, I would like to introduce our bilateral and multilateral programs. JSPS conducts many programs in cooperation with counterpart agencies all over the world. In this framework, JSPS and its counterpart agencies jointly support scientific activities such as joint research, joint seminars, and scientist exchanges, based on agreements called MOUs, or Memorandum of Understandings.

(Overseas Counterparts)
JSPS now has 77 counterpart institutions in 43 countries. In Asia, we have counterpart institutions in Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

(Cooperation with Asia)
Since Asian countries are really important partners for JSPS, we have programs specially designed for Asian countries. Now, I would like to introduce these programs.

First, I would like to show you how strong the relationship is that we have with Asian countries. When you see the number of scientist exchanged through all JSPS programs last year, both the number of scientists that went abroad from Japan and the number of scientists that came to Japan from abroad, Asia is in the majority. Naturally, when you look at the numbers by country, most of the top countries are Asian countries.

(Background)
The background to this strong relationship is as follows.

Firstly, Japan has a historically and geographically close relationship with other Asian countries. Since we are geographically close, we have naturally had many exchanges not only in the field of science, but in economic, political, social and cultural aspects for a long time.

Secondly, Asian countries have rich natural resources. This has created a large number of common interest research topics between us, such as research on the environment, biodiversity, and infectious diseases.

Thirdly, Asia is rich in human resources. Asia has the majority of the world's population. This means that Asian countries have many talented young researchers. We believe that contributing to human resource development in Asian countries is one of the most important functions of JSPS.

(Asian Science Seminar)
Now, I'd like to start introducing our programs with Asian countries. The first one is the Asian Science Seminar. We hold three seminars every year, two in Japan and one abroad. These are intensive seminars of one- to two-weeks long, for young scientists in Asian countries. The seminars are designed to spur scientific achievement in the region by introducing the latest scientific advances to the attending young Asian researchers.

(RONPAKU Program)
The RONPAKU program provides financial support to researchers from Asian countries who wish to obtain their Ph.D. degrees from Japanese universities by submitting a dissertation without going through a graduate study course. A period of up to five years is allowed to do the dissertation research. The RONPAKU fellow can visit a Japanese university once a year to conduct research under the supervision of a Japanese advisor. A total of 407 researchers have successfully obtained their Ph.D. degrees since the establishment of the program in 1978. This is a popular program for researchers who cannot obtain their Ph.D. degrees in their countries for a variety of reasons.

(Core University Program)
The third program is the Core University Program. This is the largest program that JSPS operates in cooperation with Asian countries. It is a large-scale scientific exchange program, which combines joint research, joint seminars and scientist exchanges. Under the program, JSPS and its counterpart institution designate core universities in their respective countries. The core universities carry out a variety of joint research activities in cooperation with other universities and scientists in each field.

We are now implementing 29 projects in the Core University Program. For example, we have 6 projects with Korea, 6 with Thailand, 5 with China, 5 with Indonesia, and so on. We also have two multilateral projects with Southeast Asian countries. I believe many of these projects are being carried out by your universities acting as either core universities or cooperating universities.

(Future Directions)
So far, I have introduced a variety of programs that JSPS operates. Now, what does the future hold?

Our future objective is clearly stated in our Mid-term objectives, which says "strengthen research partnership between Japan and the countries of Asia with an eye to developing the region into a research hub on par with those of North America and Europe."

To achieve this objective, we set in place our Mid-term Plan, to promote large-scale joint research projects in cooperation with overseas research councils, with a view to strengthening research partnership between Japan and other Asian countries.

In accordance with this Mid-term Plan, we are now planning to start new large-scale programs, by reforming the current Core University Program.

(Reform of Core University Program)
The core university program was originally started as one of the Japanese ODA programs. Therefore, the main purpose of the program was to help the development of Asian countries from the aspect of science and technology.

However, since its establishment in 1978, the situation has changed. Asia has experienced rapid economic growth. Some countries have experienced political turnover. Some countries are not as poor as they were, with their level of science and technology increasing rapidly, while other countries are still struggling with poverty. In other words, we now have countries with a wide range of political, economic, social, and scientific statuses in Asia.

This is why I am planning to create two types of programs by reforming the Core University Program. One is the Asian CORE Program, which aims to create world-class centers of research and education in Asia. In this program, JSPS and its counterpart agencies in Asian countries will support joint research projects as equal partners. This is a program to make Asia one of the research hubs in the world.

However, Asia still has many countries which are really in need of assistance. The Asian and African Science Platform Program is a program for such countries. Under the program, JSPS will support joint research projects on topics unique to or important for Asian and African countries. We will not require funding from the counterpart agencies in this case. This is a program to contribute to solving Asian and African problems from a scientific aspect.

(President's Leadership)
Now, taking advantage of this opportunity to speak to you, the presidents of distinguished Asian universities, I'd like to say a few words about the president's leadership at the close of my presentation.

The president is the CEO of a university. His power soars higher than Mt. Everest, and his responsibility reaches deeper than the Pacific Ocean. To fully exercise this power and responsibility, he must possess strong leadership.

University presidents need to exert their leadership in three directions: toward the government, inside the university, and to the public.

First, toward the government, he has to make higher education authorities, fiscal bureaucrats and politicians understand the mission and significance of his university. This means he must explain it to bullheads.

Second, inside his university, he must make deans and professors understand the direction in which his university should proceed. This means he must listen to self-focused academics.

Third, to the public, he must show the role that his university is playing in research and education, and ask for their cooperation. This means he must step down from his ivory tower, get down to the public's level, and get his feet and face dirty.

Moreover, he must secure a budget from the government, donations from companies, and, of course, grants from JSPS. This means he needs to be a fund-raising machine.

Being a university president is quite a hard job, full of difficulties and challenges. However, he has a dream: National development in the 21st century depends on his leadership. He is a driving force in raising his nation's scientific level and in enhancing its societal development.

We, at JSPS, will surely support the efforts of university presidents in meeting these challenges. So, let's do it together!

Thank you very much.