What's New from the Secretariat March

The last meeting of this fiscal year was held on March 18. Because it was the last, there was a report on the budget execution for the current fiscal year as well as reports on the activities of the FSs, along with discussions on the budget preparations for next fiscal year. In consideration of this, we held an Enlarged Executive Committee meeting, the second time that one has been held following the first in January of last year (FY2002). Though some members could not attend as they were out of town on field trips, we still had an attendance of 20 people.

At the start of the meeting, preliminary information about meta-databases was given by Xianfeng Song from the Network Section. He explained the structure of meta-databases, or in other words the task of standardizing the formats of various databases to make a “database of databases,” and used an LCD projector to show the map database that is currently being built. The system is difficult for the layman to understand, but during his demonstration, various pieces of information were displayed visually on the maps, and it seemed to be a very useful database for our type of area studies, which values an ecological perspective. He stated that the task from now on would be to improve the user interface to make it more user friendly.

The next report concerned the WG meeting held on March 17 to discuss the graduate student workshop scheduled for October this year. Starting with that meeting, a junior faculty member took over as head of the WG. In the future, it will function mainly under the initiative of graduate students and junior faculty members, the direction will be changed to one where the initiative of the students is respected to the greatest extent from the planning stage, and some leeway will be given in the schedule for planning. Aside from this workshop, a report was given on the plans to hold an international conference in Bogor, Indonesia in FY2005. The current plan is to schedule it for a four-day period in the middle of November 2005, on the theme of “Resource Management and Human Security.” Researchers will make up the bulk of the participants, but there will also be a session for graduate students, and as with the Ethiopia WS, there are plans to organize study tours.

Annual reports were also presented from each FS, but they will be uploaded to the website later, so I will not discuss them here.

The most important agenda item of the meeting was the budget preparation for the next fiscal year. In response to the program’s request for 150 million yen, we received notice on March 3 of a semi-formal decision that the allocation of funds would be 107 million yen. Though this figure represents 71.3% of the request, we were originally formulating a budget based on an assumption of 100 million yen, so the Secretariat was quite relieved. Having said that, however, each division and section cut back on many activities and budgets to meet the 100 million yen budget, and the unexpected 7 million yen must be something they fervently want. Though I’m certain that everybody was keen to use the extra funds for their own projects, it was thankfully agreed, without any objection, that the Secretariat would manage this sum until the fall as a reserve fund.

The FS Division then presented the results of the selection of students to be dispatched in the first half of next fiscal year. The Asia Section and Africa Section each had 12 applicants, and the Executive Committee Meeting approved of their desired plans to send 11 each. In relation to next year’s budget, the number of applicants for the second half will greatly influence the reserve fund. In addition, one COE researcher will be sent to the Myanmar FS and another to the Laos FS next fiscal year.

At present, six 21st Century COE programs have been chosen in the field of “area studies,” And there are moves to formulate collaborative activities among them. As one part of this, a proposal was made to us to hold a three-day symposium in Sapporo, Hokkaido in July of next year. As we will be holding the international conference in Bogor next year, and have budgetary constraints, we anticipate some difficulties in participating fully in that. However, a decision was made to consider participating in it as far as is possible.

Since the program is approaching the end of its second year, and as there have been personnel changes in ASAFAS, there will be major changes in the staff and responsibilities in the Public Relations Section and in the Executive Committee as a whole. I’d like to take space here to thank those who are leaving their posts as heads of divisions and sections for their hard work, and to ask those who will continue on or take up new duties to do your best. To all members of ASAFAS and CSEAS, whether in the Executive Committee or not, and to all readers of this newsletter, I would like to ask for your continued support for the year beginning in April, in which we will be having the interim evaluation.

Back Number >>