What's New from the Secretariat December

The countdown has finally started toward the end of 2003. This year’s last Executive Committee meeting was held on the 18th. The key agenda items this month boiled down to budgetary matters. There is “disquieting” talk that if we do not use up the funds we have received for this year by the end of the year, the balance will be considered income of the COE leader, and subject to income tax. So, where we stand now in terms of the implementation of the current year’s budget is a major concern. Basically, the budget execution itself has been smooth. However, as the dispatch of students on field work overseas and purchases of books from abroad do not necessarily go as smoothly as planned, it seems unlikely that we will be able to spend all the funds received so far by year-end. All we can do is pray that the COE leader does not receive a strange New Year’s monetary gift.

The meeting also discussed how to use the funds in the care of the Secretariat. These funds, in excess of 5 million yen, stem from personnel expenses, part of which became unnecessary. The Secretariat presented its proposal on the use of these funds, and this was approved after a round of discussions. The funds will be mainly used for the promotion of the digitization of bibliographical information concerning the collection of books at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, the proofreading of English papers presented at the workshop in Ethiopia, and proofreading of English articles and translation of some articles for the further improvement of the English Web site. Members of the Executive Committee represent the interests of their respective divisions or subdivisions. However, they put the interests of the program as a whole before anything else when it comes to topics such as those taken up at the latest meeting. This may be natural, but the Secretariat still cannot but appreciate their attitudes.

The meeting also addressed the preparation of the budget for the next fiscal year. On December 10, 22 COE leaders of Kyoto University gathered for a meeting to exchange views about their respective 21st Century COE programs at the university’s administrative building. There, they were told that a semi-formal decision on the allocation of funds for fiscal 2004 would probably be made in early February next year. As the semi-formal decision will be quickly followed by a budget proposal deadline, we should be starting to polish ideas now to ensure that our budget proposal be mapped out in time. On this matter, the Secretariat also prepared three kinds of overall plans for internal budgetary allocations. We originally sought an allocation of 150 million yen for the next fiscal year and we expect a reduction of roughly 30% from this amount, as was the case for the current fiscal year; it will leave us with a budget of 100 million yen. This means that we are preparing a budget that is already 20 million yen less than the actual allocation for the current year, and we anticipate having difficulties in cutting back on the planned projects. The Secretariat presented three alternative overall plans with differing allocation ratios for the Field-station division, Area Info division, and the Secretariat, and one of the three was approved at the meeting. From now on, each division needs to come up with its own budget plan for its internal allocations, and an overall adjustment has to be made when the semi-formal decision comes.

The above-mentioned meeting among the 21st Century COE leaders reportedly addressed the issue of an impending interim evaluation of the COE Programs. Discussions on the matter at the meeting included reports that officials from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science came to make an inspection of some of the COE programs at Kyoto University from late October through mid-November; that a questionnaire survey is likely to be conducted on the progress of the programs prior to the interim evaluation; and that evaluation hearings are highly likely to be based on the results of this questionnaire survey. For our own program, the Executive Committee meeting last month launched a working group to prepare an interim report. This working group will handle the preparations for the interim evaluation as well.

A working group report was presented on a domestic workshop scheduled for the coming fiscal year. The current plan is for the workshop to be held in Tokyo for two and a half days around late October, with a total of 20 to 25 graduate students selected from among applicants both within and outside ASAFAS to make presentations. Applications will be accepted from about late May. The program will include poster sessions and the introduction of on-site education at field stations through audio-visual materials. Approximately 10 outside researchers will be invited as commentators. The title of the event will likely be “Graduate Student Workshop – Reports from the Field,” with a separate overall title. There was an exchange of views on the merits and demerits of the workshop being held in Tokyo, such as the feasibility and the costs and difficulties that may emerge in relation to co-sponsorship. The working group will develop the plan further, including the possibility of moving up the application period for graduate students planning to participate in the workshop.

As a major development between now and the end of the fiscal year, ASAFAS, CSEAS and the Center for African Area Studies (CAAS) will establish a Center for Integrated Area Studies (formerly named Area Studies Information Center). The center will play a pivotal role in the accumulation, processing and dissemination of information on Asian and African area studies at Kyoto University. We are aiming to establish the center in April of next year through a reorganization of CAAS. The Executive Committee was briefed on steps to be taken before its establishment. One of the objectives of our Program is to expand and improve the function of the new center, and the afore-mentioned funding for the promotion of the digitization of bibliographical information concerning the collection of books at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies is considered to be part of this objective.

As we expect to remain as busy as ever even after the turn of the year, we hope all of you will take good care of your “mind and body” and make sure not to catch colds. We are counting on the continued cooperation of Program participants next year.

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