What's New from the Secretariat January

Our first Executive Committee meeting in the new year was held on January 15. Because it’s the beginning of a new year, I would like to talk a little bit about the organizational structure and future plans of our program, with a view to renewing our thoughts on it. I’d like to use this and the next month’s bulletins to talk about this.

There are 26 core members, including the leader, promoting the program, and a further 20 collaborators involved in various aspects of its activities. All of them are faculty members of Kyoto University’s ASAFAS and CSEAS. Because graduate education in area studies is one of the major objectives of the program, the more than 150 graduate students in the school are also important partners of ours. In addition, though their numbers are limited by budgetary constraints, we have a handful of COE researchers, as well as six administrative assistants who are in charge of clerical work, website operation and management, and filing reference materials and books. They are the unsung heroes of the program. The administrative office of ASAFAS and CSEAS also gives us its support. Speaking of the budget, our allocations were 180 million yen in FY2002, and 120 million yen in 2003. Since it is a five-year program, it seems likely that we will end up spending more than 600 million yen by the end of the program in FY2006.

Given this large budget and number of people involved, it is a grave responsibility of the leader and other members to carry the program forward as scheduled, and achieve the goals we set at the outset. This responsibility is assumed mainly by the Executive Committee, which meets each month, as well as the Enlarged Executive Committee meeting we have once a year. The Secretariat, for its part, carries out its day-to-day work based on the decisions made at these meetings. An overall picture of the executive set-up of the program can be found at the Staff and Responsibility section of the website.

Next month, I will give more concrete information on the composition and operations of the Executive Committee.

Now, let me return to the subject of our first meeting this year, held on January 15. In addition to the regular discussions on the budget, etc., we received and accepted reports that our “request forms” to be prepared for the semi-formal decision on budget allocations for FY2004 had already been drawn up; and that the forms for the interim evaluation of the program had been sent by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), and that they were currently being filled in, mainly by the Secretariat, to be sent out to the University’s Administration Bureau by the end of the week. Since we try to fit as much information as possible onto the forms, we often fill them out with very small letters, and it’s quite a demanding task for our aging eyes.

The meeting also heard a report that on January 9, two staff members from the JSPS came to inspect the program. The program leader and three others met them. They projected the website directly onto an LCD projector, giving an outline of the program and explaining the state of the activities. The program leader thought the high quality of the website had really hit home, complementing our own work, but in fact, this was not necessarily simply self-congratulatory praise. We received the following comments from a person who edits and publishes an eNewsletter on the academic use of electronic media. This is quoted without permission, but I hope the editor doesn’t mind.

“21st Century COE sites are being launched one after the other. . . Among them, your project seems to be an extraordinary presence, and I have strong expectations of it for the future. I plan to introduce your program in my eNewsletter in the near future. . . Please accept my respect.”

What wonderful comments to receive! There was also a report from the Public Relations Section that they had placed a map showing the locations of Field Stations on the website, and that the map allows one to access 14 stations in Asia and Africa. It is a great idea that makes use of the merits of digital technology. If you have not seen it yet, I definitely recommend taking a look.

The semi-formal decision on the FY2004 COE budget allocations will be made in the middle of February at the earliest, and as one might imagine, we are currently formulating our budget for next fiscal year. As one of the new plans for the next fiscal year, a proposal was made, and accepted, for the Research Promotion Section to appropriate budget for organizing workshops abroad. Up until this year, this had been limited to domestic workshops.

Our Secretariat receives many mailed items from other 21st Century COE programs. Many are publications, including newsletters issued by other programs, as well as invitations to and posters for international conferences to be held in Japan. However, our program has not issued such items at all. We are trying to provide information mainly using the website, which allows instantaneous transmission, and do not use printed materials. Our program has put an emphasis on holding international workshops near the site of fieldwork rather than holding them in Japan, and consequently so far we have held only one in Japan, on quite a small scale. Up to now, budget allocations have been provided to each FS as necessary for international workshops at the beginning of the fiscal year. The new addition of a common “kitty budget for international workshops” to the Research Promotion Section to be contingently allocated upon request may be seen as a reflection of the philosophy of our program. Every time I see the beautifully printed pamphlets and posters sent by other programs, I get a little bit flustered, but I think we simply need to march forward confidently, doing it “our way.”

In relation to next fiscal year’s budget, a report was given that the recruitment for students to be dispatched to the FSs in FY2004 will begin at the end of March. Last year, because of the SARS epidemic, we were quite concerned about the students who were doing fieldwork in Southern China and Vietnam, or who went to Southeast Asia through Hong Kong. We very much hope that nothing like that will happen this year, and that the students will be able to give their undivided attention to their surveys and research.

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