The weather is still warm here. If you never went out into the city streets, you wouldn't hear the jingle bells ringing and wouldn't be aware it's already December.
This month's meeting was held on the 8th, a week earlier than the regularly scheduled date. First, there was a report on an unforeseen "gift." It was one of the major report items for December, and concerned the results of the mid-term evaluation held in May. The reports based on the feeling we got from the hearing last May had been relatively positive, but the notification that came to Kyoto University at the end of November was not one that called for celebration. We were given the second of four grades in the assessment, and the overall evaluation was, "It is judged that additional effort will be required to ensure that the initial goals are achieved." Of the 113 programs approved under the 21st Century COE in 2002, 41 were evaluated as "excellent," 60 as "good," like our Program, 10 as "passable," with 2 receiving failing marks. Of the five programs involved in area studies, 1 was judged as "excellent," 2 as "good," and 2 as "passable."
In terms of improvements, the evaluation called upon our program to demonstrate concretely and clearly the contents of "integration of social sciences and natural sciences (transdisciplinary integration)," "comparative area studies," "establishing a methodology for area studies using field stations," and "training young researchers." In the remaining two years of the Program, we will have to pay heed to these points as we move forward. There was vigorous discussion at the Executive Committee Meeting on how to address the points cited in the evaluation report, though it was concluded that there is no need for any drastic change in the program's trajectory. During the past two and a half years, we have generally placed an emphasis on supporting the fieldwork of graduate students and fully developing the website, and from now on, we need to pay more attention to presenting research results, following the four points outlined above.
This month again, there was a report on the international symposium to be held next fiscal year, by the chairperson of the working group. In terms of the nature of the symposium, he reported that it will be regarded as the "Kyoto University International Symposium," since funding is being provided by the University's Administration Bureau, but since some budgetary supplement from the 21st Century COE is also expected, the working group will also discuss how to make it, in some form, into an achievement of the COE Program as well. He also reported that the working group would meet in two weeks.
From the Secretariat, there was a report on the execution of the FY2004 budget. The Secretariat requested that orders for items using this year's budget be placed before the end of the year. There was also a piece of good news from the Secretariat, that there would not be a need to cover the deficit from the graduate student workshop, as reported last month, since the recalculation of the costs showed no deficit after all.
The main agenda item this month was the preparation of the budget for FY2005. As usual, we have to create the framework for the budget without knowing how much funding the Program will be allocated. Naturally, various opinions were expressed about this situation, but ultimately it was agreed, assuming that the semi-formal budget allocation would be 110 million yen, which amounts to approximately 70% of the 164 million yen in our application, and taking the ratio of allocation of the initial budget of this fiscal year to each division as a general framework, that the Field Station Division, Area Info Division, and Administration Division would draw up their own budgets by next month's meeting. The leader expressed the wish that, in drawing up this budget, thought should also be given to how to respond to the comments from the mid-term evaluation.
The Research Promotion Section proposed providing budgetary support to workshops scheduled to be held in Myanmar and Laos at the end of this fiscal year, and the request was approved. In relation to this, providing support for graduate students in African area studies, and in some cases in South or West Asia , to attend the workshops was discussed, partly from the perspective of planting seeds for comparative area studies between Asia and Africa. Approval was given to providing support as far as the budget allows. When the outlines of the two workshops become available, the Research Promotion Section will circulate news of the recruitment of applicants to graduate students.
It was truly disappointing at the end of the year to receive no more than a "good" evaluation, but next year let's start afresh and work to make the Program even more substantial. (Kato)