What's New from the Secretariat February

Before providing “news” for this month, I would like to present the second part of the review of the organizational structure and future plans of the program. Last month, the organizational framework was presented. This time, its actual functioning will be discussed.

In order to reach the program’s goals in an efficient way in line with the plan, we need to attend to several important questions, notably, how to promote communications and coordinate different opinions among the program’s participants in administrating the program. It is important of course to discuss how to promote the program in line with the plan, but, in addition, there is a need to have discussions on how to make revisions since in reality things do not always proceed in accordance with the initial plan. It is the Executive Committee Meeting, held on the third Thursday of every month, which is the forum for discussing such matters. The membership consists of some seventeen people, who constitute that “Executive Committee” listed on the “Staff and Responsibilities” section of the website.

The first Executive Committee meeting was held a month after the launch of the program in November 2002. Excluding the one-month vacations taken in August, this year’s February meeting marks the 14th. The meetings proceed mainly along the lines of report and agenda items prepared by the Secretariat. The topics are diverse, ranging from reports on the status of budget execution and state of activities of the various divisions, discussion on new plans such as proposals for workshops, to decisions on students to be dispatched to field stations.

Though the meetings are held on a monthly basis, since many of the report and agenda items require regular and continuous attention and thus are carried over to the following meeting, they typically last for two or two-and-a-half hours. For example, the selective reduction of the number of FSs was one of the items decided at the last meeting. At present, the program is supporting a total of 14 FSs throughout Asia and Africa. By reducing the number of FSs and concentrating our limited resources on the selected ones in the latter half of the five-year program, we plan to enhance the quality of results related to the integration of field research and on-site education. From the end of last fiscal year, we have on occasion exchanged opinions on this subject at our meetings. As the conclusion of the last month’s meeting, we decided that for three of the nine FSs in the Asia Section, we would not allocate budget from FY2004, for reasons including an absence of new field research projects by students. We also decided to consider merging the two FSs in Indonesia at some point in the future. Similarly, in the Africa Section, it was decided to carry out the selection of FSs beginning in FY2004, and to start implementing it in FY2005.

The contents of each meeting are put into minutes, and sent by e-mail to the faculty of ASAFAS and CSEAS, the core institutions in charge of our COE program. From September of last year, What’s New from the Secretariat has been written based on the minutes, and released to ASAFAS graduate students and the general public through the website. Thanks to the cooperation of the members of the COE program, the organizational structure of the program, as outlined above, has functioned smoothly.

I would now like to move on to the Executive Committee Meeting held on February 19. The end of the fiscal year is approaching, but considering that this fiscal year falls on the transitional period for Kyoto University to be corporatized as an independent administrative institution (dokuritsu-gyosei-hojin), there is a need to balance the books for this fiscal year earlier than usual. The person in charge of accounting at the Secretariat issued an “ultimatum” to the effect that the deadline for the use of the budget would be the end of February. In addition, reports were presented including the following: the Interim Progress Report of the Program, which was necessary for the mid-term evaluation, was submitted to the University’s Administration Bureau; the graduate student workshop, scheduled to be held at the end of October, was announced by e-mail to the members of ASAFAS and CSEAS, and recruitment had begun from within the two institutions for students and young scholars wishing to give papers at the workshop; the 6th issue of IAS-INFOM (eNewsletter) was released; and the recruitment of graduate students to be dispatched to the FSs in FY2004 began, with the deadline set on March 3. There was also a request from the Secretariat that on all reports and publications that are fruits of the program, credit must be given to indicate that they are results of the 21st Century COE Program. The meeting was also told that the Interim Progress Report of the Program is planned to be uploaded to the website.

Moving on to agenda items for discussion, as the result of the recruitment process held from January 16 to February 12, a Japanese national with a long experience in Laos was selected as a candidate for the COE researcher for the Laos FS, and the Meeting approved the decision. He is a very talented individual, who received his MA from a Thai university, with the thesis being published in Thailand. We have a high expectation of his contribution to the Laos FS. There will be a large shift in the membership of the Executive Committee as we enter the third year of the program next fiscal year, and there was discussion at the meeting on the selection of the members. These changes stemmed from a desire to lessen the administrative burden on certain staff members, and also to ensure that as many people as possible are involved in the running of the program. Perhaps because of overwork, one of the section heads is currently in the hospital with severe lower back pain; considering this as well, appropriate job rotation is essential.

Another important topic of discussion concerned changes in the structure of the website. There was a suggestion to modify the table of contents section of the Japanese top page, wherever possible bringing to the front the titles of items that are frequently updated. Because of internal links, it is difficult to change the item titles, so the matter was referred to the Network Section for further consideration. There was talk about how to improve the working environment of the person who, alone, is in charge of the work of maintaining and updating the website, but we could not come up with any solutions that could be readily implemented.

Next month, we will be holding the final Executive Committee Meeting of this fiscal year. As we will be hearing annual reports from each FS, I am afraid that the meeting will last much longer than usual.

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