What's New from the Secretariat November

The November meeting of the Executive Committee was held in the morning of the 20th, the third Thursday of the month, as scheduled. The meeting drew a large crowd, as non-members of the Executive Committee also attended the session, including people in charge or expected to be in charge of workshops in Japan in the next fiscal year and an international workshop set for the year after next.

One of the key matters reported at the meeting was the state of the budget execution. It was pointed out that since we are now halfway through the third quarter of the current fiscal year, it is about time that we should be paying closer attention to the budget’s management for the entire fiscal year. So far, some sections have chalked up small deficits, but on the whole, we were told by the Secretariat that we need to be spending funds at a faster clip. In particular, as there will be a shift in the financial accounting system after Kyoto University ceases to be a state university and becomes corporatized as an independent administrative institution in April of next year, we were advised to have firm spending plans for the current year in place by the end of February.

In other areas, there were reports on some changes in the duty roster, on purchases and sorting out of books, and on other administrative matters. For books, budget constraints have unfortunately limited the number of administrative assistants to just three. However, they are tackling the tough job of handling as many as 8,000 books altogether for the last and current years. They all deserve our heart-felt appreciation. There were three reports related to our web site, all proposing to revamp it and smoothen the flow of information until public announcements find their way onto the site. This job also falls on the shoulders of one of the administrative assistants, and here again, we express our gratitude. Speaking of gratitude, we should not forget the two administrative assistants who assist in the Secretariat. We cannot list all their names here, but it is obvious that it would be difficult to manage the 21st Century COE Program without the support of this reliable and silent force, often shouldering tasks for us with little reward.

There was a report on an international workshop held in Ethiopia October 20-30. The workshop went without a hitch, and it was reported that participants won praise from their counterparts at Addis Ababa University. Some pictures from the session and study tours have already been uploaded to the photo gallery on the web site. We are looking forward to seeing the results of the workshop, which are scheduled to be publicized on the web site or through other means.

The inaugural issue of our mail magazine in Japanese, IAS-INFOM, was distributed last month, and it was reported that the second issue is due out on November 26. At present, there are 545 registered subscribers to the mail magazine; the immediate goal is to raise it to 1,000. We would like to ask participants in IAS (Integrated Area Studies) Program to pitch in toward achieving that goal, by e-mailing information on it to members of academic societies they belong to or by adding that information to their individual e-mail signatures.

The meeting also was informed of invitations to international meetings sponsored by area studies-related 21st Century Programs at Sophia University and Waseda University. Those who wish to take part in these meetings were advised to make use of the funds appropriated for domestic travel expenses at the Secretariat. In the future we should proactively consider exchanges with other programs that are going forward.

As one agenda item, a draft plan for the domestic workshop in the next fiscal year was presented by the program leader. The workshop’s overall title is “Graduate Student Workshop: Reports from the Field,” and the thematic title will be considered by a working group. The draft plan calls for the workshop to be held for two days or so some time near late October of next year, with Kyoto as its venue, but Tokyo remains a possibility. Graduate students other than those from ASAFAS will be invited on an application basis. Faculty members of other universities will be invited as commentators. The workshop could also be an occasion to display results of the documentation concerning the integration of research and on-site-education in the field. This is the proposed outline of the workshop. The meeting endorsed the establishment of a working group made up of five young faculty members and chaired by the program leader, and also accepted the workshop outline. The international workshop scheduled for 2005 will be held in Bogor, Indonesia, mainly with faculty members as participants. However, it was reported that in light of the results of the workshop in Ethiopia, presentations by graduate students are likely to be part of the program.

Around this time last year, we were preoccupied with the preparation of the budget for the current fiscal year. As we had no idea about the scale of possible cuts from the requested budget – it turned out that they were reduced by a little over 30% – we prepared the budget on taking several scenarios for cuts as assumptions. From this alone, it is easy to imagine how intense the discussions were between the divisions and subdivisions of the Program. So far in the current fiscal year, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) has not given any word about the budgetary allocations to the research promotion division of the university headquarters. We should appreciate this peacefulness or lack of intense discussions, but naturally we can not afford to sit back and relax yet. Similarly, we are concerned that the schedule for the interim assessment of the Program by the JSPS remains unclear.

Be that as it may, we should keep our spirits up through the winter with the occasional help of sukiyaki and sake, reminding ourselves that “every thing will work out” and “we can manage.”

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