Why researcher networks
In May 2008, the Council for Science and Technology Policy issued a report titled “Toward the Reinforcement of Science and Technology Diplomacy.” Diplomacy centered upon science and technology is carried out as a means of contributing to the solution of problems besetting society through a combination of bi- and multilateral cooperation. While promoting international research collaboration, it works to build and strengthen networks among researchers of different countries. For this policy to be successful, talented people will need to be fostered who can support and advance S&T diplomacy. Whereas the intent of JSPS’s fellowship programs that invite overseas researchers to Japan is not to promote S&T diplomacy per se; these programs, however, do create viable connections between Japanese researchers and researchers of other countries with whom they do research during their stays in Japan. Building enduring collaborative relationships out of these connections is a facet of S&T diplomacy. It is from this perspective that JSPS carries out its program for supporting alumni associations.
JSPSís researcher networks
Every year, overseas researchers at various stages of their careers come to Japan via JSPS’s invitational programs. They range from young researchers to eminent scientists. After finishing their tenures, some of them return to their home countries, others go to third countries to advance their work, while still others continue their research in Japan. What all of them have in common is their experience of having stayed in Japan under a JSPS program. To sustain the relationship between these researchers and Japan over the long term, JSPS helps to establish and supports networks in the form of JSPS alumni associations. To date, 12 such alumni associations have been established. By supporting their activities, JSPS works to build networks among its former fellows and Japanese researchers, and, through these linkages, to develop and strengthen scientific exchange between their countries and Japan.
BRIDGE Fellowship Program
The BRIDGE Fellowship Program was established in FY 2009 for the purpose of sustaining and strengthening networks among former JSPS fellows and their Japanese colleagues. What distinguishes it from other fellowship programs is that it only applies to the members of JSPS alumni associations. For former JSPS fellows to pursue research with Japan requires above all that they sustain and develop their networks with Japanese counterparts, which is the primary objective of the BRIDGE Program. It provides alumni association members with an opportunity to revisit Japan for the purpose of creating, sustaining or strengthening collaborative relationships with Japanese researchers. To do this, BRIDGE Fellows visit their former host institutions, participate in joint research projects and seminars, or help to foster young researchers who may become future participants in JSPS programs. To effectively achieve these program objectives, the selection process for the BRIDGE Program differs from those of JSPS’s other fellowship programs: It is carried out by a selection committee established by each country’s alumni association, which makes the fellowship program an integral part of the association’s activities.
Since the first alumni association was established in Germany in 1995, the JSPS alumni community has grown to embody 12 countries and regions. They are not established for static purposes, but are rather dynamic organizations that work to build bilateral networks used to advance scientific exchange between their countries and Japan.
The original group of alumni associations was established in countries with JSPS liaison offices; more recently, however, they have been established in countries without JSPS offices, including India, Korea, Bangladesh and Finland. In substitution of a JSPS office, coordinators will be appointed in these countries to act as a vestibule between alumni associations and JSPS headquarters and to provide administrative assistance for symposiums and other alumni association events. On another plane, JSPS encourages and supports self-initiated international exchanges and actives among the alumni associations themselves. Through these and other initiatives, JSPS is strengthening its support for the alumni associations.
Efforts within this evolving context of JSPS-alumni cooperation are bearing tangible results, such as an increase in the number of young researchers applying for JSPS’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Foreign Researchers from countries with alumni associations. In fact, one of the alumni associations’ greatest attributes has been the opportunity they provide researchers who have conducted research in Japan under JSPS programs to convey those experiences to younger researchers in their countries, giving rise to new generations of researchers aspiring to do research in Japan. As the benefactor of these positive results, JSPS will continue to proactively support its alumni associations in carrying forward their efforts and activities.