Japan Society for the Promotion of Science


Regarding Role of Program officers at Research Center for Science Systems
Q1. Do the Center’s researchers perform screening and selection under the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research Program?
Under the program, the Center’s researchers (program officers) prepare lists of examiner candidates using a database of potential examiners established within JSPS. Final selection of the examiners is made by the program’s selection committee.

Within the framework of the selection committee, the program officers chair screening committees and overview the overall selection operation. They do this with an eye to identify aspects of screening and deliberation processes that need to be improved. In the case that a program officer has him/herself applied for a grant, s/he is not allowed to chair the screening committee that handles that application.
Q2. What is done to ensure transparency and fairness in the selection process of the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research Program?
To ensure transparency and fairness, a two-stage peer review process is used. It comprises a document and panel review, with multiple examiners carrying out each stage.

The examiners conducting the panel review check and collate the results of the document review and make the final selections. If a question arises regarding the fairness of panel review results, the program officer chairing the relevant screening committee requests an explanation from the panelists, the validity of which is determined by the other members of the committee. The chair (program officer) is excluded from these deliberations. In this way, a mechanism outside the two-stage process is in place to prevent arbitrary screening results.

The names and affiliations of the examiners are not disclosed until the selection process is completed. However, the names of the document review examiners are included in the materials issued in the next stage by the panel review. Moreover, rules are established to prevent conflicts of interest, such as excluding examiners from screening applications when they are the principal investigator, collaborating research or otherwise associated with the proposed project under review.
Q3. How many years are program officer appointments?
Appointments are for three years. As a rule, reappointments are not made. It is asked why some of the program officers are not employed longer term by the Center. Their term of appointment is set to help ensure fairness. So as to avoid imbalance in the program officer makeup, effort is made to choose the replacements for outgoing POs from different schools of theory and different research institutions.
Q4. As the program officers maintain their positions at their home institutions while assigned to the Center, doesn’t this give their institutions an advantage over others in the examiner selection process of the Grants-in-Aid and other programs?
Examiners for these programs are selected from a list of candidates prepared by the members of each of the Center’s research programs. They deliberate among themselves in selecting examiner candidates. This provides a check function, while precluding any one program officer’s institution from having an advantage. Moreover, the Center’s senior program officers, who represent all areas of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, meet to discuss examiner selections, with JSPS’s executive making the final decisions. This provides a redoubled check to ensure that no institution is given an unfair advantage.
Q5. Why are none of the program officers given full-time positions at the Center?
The work of the program officers includes selecting examiner candidates for the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research, Research Fellowships for Young Scientists and other programs; screening for the JSPS Prize; and chairing screening committees under the Grants-in-Aid Program. In all these functions, the program officers participate in JSPS’s programs while providing recommendations and advice regarding their implementation. They also conduct studies and research on S&T trends.

This work requires a high level of knowledge and expertise with regard to the PO’s particular research field and research environment. Therefore, active, frontline researchers are required to fill these positions. If such researchers were to be employed full-time, it would mean that they’d be away from their universities or other research institutes for a period of three years. This would be a great loss for both the researcher and his/her research institute.

Also, as the work the program officers do for JSPS tends to highly focused and specialized, it can normally be accomplished by coming in to the Center one or two days a week on the average.

Given these conditions on the ground, the Center does not employ program officers full-time.
Q6. Are the Center’s program officers involved in the Global COE Program?
No. They have no role in the screening or selection processes of that program, including examiner selection under it.