What's New from the Secretariat May

We have entered the best season of the year, weather-wise, but during this fine time, we underwent the mid-term evaluation hearings for the 21st Century COE programs which were accepted in FY2002, at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) – and the oral assessment was something that the program leader hopes will be the last he ever experiences in his semi-golden age. The hearings for the 11 programs at the University of Kyoto were held intermittently from May 10 to 19, with ours in the afternoon of the 18th. The main report at this month’s Executive Committee meeting concerned the hearing.

On the basis of the discussion at the April meeting, the leader, program secretary general, and director of CSEAS participated in the hearing, taking with them three types of presentation documents. More specifically, there were the “table of contents” of the presentation explaining the state of progress of the program, supplementary documents (a total of 13 kinds) for reference in the explanations along the table of contents, and three accompanying documents requested by the JSPS. The question and answer session was held following our explanations. The content can be summarized into “the contemporary relevance of conducting area studies in Japan,” “concrete examples of transdisciplinary studies,” and “the significance of comparative area studies,” which touched on the core essence of the program. The leader’s personal impression is that we were successful in putting forth the idea that the program is moving along well. We are expecting to hear the final results of the evaluation in the middle of October.

Going a step ahead of the activities of the Center for Integrated Area Studies, which is scheduled to be established this fiscal year, we have placed the major emphasis on the website as a vehicle for the dissemination of information. One document we prepared for the hearing shows the following situation for the updating and access to the website.

  No. of website updates    
  Japanese English Website hits Remarks
Mar.2003 2 2    
Apr.2003 0 1    
May 2003 4 3 221  
Jun.2003 3 3 801  
Jul.2003 3 5 970  
Aug.2003 1 3 662  
Sep.2003 2 2 787  
Oct.2003 3 3 1,864 Launch of mail magazine IAS-INFOM
Nov.2003 4 4 2,008  
Dec.2003 10 3 2,370  
Jan.2004 14 7 3,224  
Feb.2004 11 6 2,979  
Mar.2004 12 9 3,343  
Apr.2004 10 10 3,615  
May 2004 9 7 2,569 As of May 25
Total 88 68 25,413  

The table shows that access skyrocketed following the launch of the mail magazine, and that the number of updates increased starting in December of last year. The latter fact has led to a huge workload for the staff member in charge of the website, but beginning from this month, we will have an extra person working on it, who was introduced to the meeting. We will continue to work to strengthen the website, under the new setup with the additional staff. The immediate goal is to increase the readership of the mail magazine, which now stands at 666, and to begin using audio (already started) and video on the website. As an example of what we have been doing, as part of our efforts to improve the website, we redesigned the menu on the left-hand side of the Japanese page, equipping it with a site search function. We are also planning to redesign the English page soon.

It was also reported at the meeting that we will gradually upload some of the documents that were prepared for the mid-term evaluation hearing. They include, for example, the achievements of graduate students from FY2002 to FY2004 (including academic papers scheduled for publication and oral presentations planned for the near future) and projects of faculty that received MEXT grants in aid for scientific research.

Also in relation to the documents prepared for the hearing, there was a report from the head of the Research Promotion Section on the outline of the international symposium planned to be held during the final year of the program. The suggested theme is “New Frontiers of Integrated Area Studies: Field Stations for Dynamic Research and Graduate Education, and Expansion of International Networks,” as this incorporates the two pillars of the program, i.e., the field stations and the Center for Integrated Area Studies. The plan is to hold it in Kyoto in mid November 2006, with about 200 participants including invited scholars from abroad. This may seem a little premature, but there was some discussion of the venue and schedule, as well as the place for the reception.

From the Research Promotion Section, there was also a report on the state of applications for the budget for promoting the holding of workshops and seminars inside and outside Japan, and how to deal with these applications in the future.

Another important report item concerned the staff and responsibilities within the Secretariat and the Network Section. This involves responsibilities of the administrative assistants in both sections. Now that the program has entered its third year, and it has become possible to clearly grasp the tasks of the secretariat and website maintenance, it was recommended that the staff responsibilities, which used to be defined by “rule of thumb,” be made more clear than in the past. In the future, there will be a need for “administrative guidance,” so that all the members of the program become fully aware of the staff responsibilities, and can ask people to do certain tasks in accordance with a list of staff responsibilities.

In addition, there was a report from the Network Section that it will soon introduce Share360, a Web-based collaboration suite developed by Cybozu, Inc. This groupware program will allow for electronic meetings, bulletin boards, and file management, etc., by user groups, and will be useful in allowing exchanges of information by the various research groups, and in the collection of documents.

At the end of last fiscal year, the person who was mainly in charge of planning the English-language website moved to another university, and the head of the Public Relations Section reported on the current state of affairs and questioned what needs to be done in the future. For the time being, it is impossible to prevent the extra burden from falling on certain staff members, but it was decided that the problem could be reviewed after the summer.

As a report from the West Asia FS (formerly the Cairo FS), it was announced that they have published a catalog of magazines in Arabic (the first volume of the series deals with the Gulf region countries), as a fruit of the 21st century COE. For those of us who cannot read Arabic, this is like casting pearls before swine, but it is said that there is nothing similar in publication today, and that it will be a treasure for researchers. The hardcover catalog was printed in Lebanon (with the 21st century COE as publisher). We would like to continue to support similar work “behind the scenes,” as a fruit of the Center for Integrated Area Studies.

We are now a month and a half into the new fiscal year. The financial accounting system is beginning to operate under the new corporatized independent administrative institution. There are still many uncertainties over how the budget of the 21st Century COE program will be positioned and implemented under the new system. At this meeting, the Library Section reported on the plans for the budget allocation for the current fiscal year, but it did not go beyond the report that by next month’s meeting, they would have consulted and confirmed with the University’s Administration Bureau concerning how the budget could be used. It always takes time, of course, for a new system to become settled. In our program as well, there were many trials and errors at the beginning, but with the completion of the second year, as can be seen by the decision on the staff responsibilities of the Secretariat and Network Section, things have really started to take shape. It will be exciting to see how our activities develop.

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