What's New from the Secretariat June

Because some of the members of the Executive Committee are traveling abroad, consideration was given to moving this month’s meeting to another day, but in the end it was held on the morning of the third Thursday, according to the regular schedule. This was because even if we tried to change the date, it would have been impossible to find a day when nobody was out of the country. Since the implementation of the new fiscal year budget will soon begin, and the number of people who go abroad for fieldwork will increase, the meeting schedule will likely become more difficult to coordinate from now on.

First, as “homework” from last month’s meeting, an explanation was given on the method of budget execution based on the financial system under the new corporatized independent administrative institution. Information was provided on the monthly closing date for the submission of documents and for the date of payment, and it was also reported that with the corporatization as an independent administrative institution, the unit price for remuneration to administrative assistants became somewhat lower than last fiscal year. This reduction in remuneration is one of the tougher aspects of the corporatization. We only hope that we can win the understanding of the administrative assistants on this matter.

Following from last month, it was reported by the Research Promotion Section that the tentative venue and schedule have been decided for the international symposium to be held in Kyoto in FY2006, the last fiscal year of the program. The venue will be the main hall of the Shiran Kaikan, run by the Graduate School of Medicine, and the dates will either be November 11-13 or November 17-20, 2006.

Similarly, an explanation was given of Share360, a groupware developed by Cybozu, Inc., that was introduced by the Network Section last month. A crystal display projector was used to directly show the groupware window and demonstrate its use. Using this groupware, it is possible to manage online meetings, bulletin boards, and files of researchers’ academic achievements. The explanations of the use of the groupware should be put in writing as they are rather complicated; once that is completed, there are plans to hold a workshop to familiarize the members of the 21st Century COE program with the groupware. Also, following some debate, it was decided that the groupware server would be named “ASCOM,” for Area Studies Communication.

The topic for discussion posed by the Public Relations Section concerned reports from the graduate students dispatched to field stations. These reports, which are uploaded to the website, play a key role in calling attention to the accomplishments of the Field Station Section. In order to ensure that the reports are submitted promptly and in proper form, and uploaded to the website, there is a need for good teamwork between the students, supervisory faculty, people responsible for the FSs, Secretariat, Public Relations Section, and the administrative assistants working on the website. The Public Relations Section made a new proposal for the work flow. Since the roles of the students and the advising faculty members are particularly important, they will be asked to promptly respond to requests from the Secretariat concerning field reports.

There were two important agenda items this month. The first concerned the redesign of the menu section for the top page of the Japanese website. In fact, this section was just touched up in February. However, a plan was put forth to revise it again, in order to accommodate the uploading of the data prepared for the mid-term evaluation hearing in May, and to systematically incorporate data that will be updated in the future on a yearly basis. A draft plan prepared by the leader was discussed, and basically approved by the Meeting. After the Public Relations Section decides how to concretely implement it, the revision work will be done during the summer vacation.

The second item involved the international symposium, to be held next year. Up until this point, the discussions had been based on the premise that it would be held in Indonesia. A local university and an international organization with a research institute located in Bogor were being considered to serve as hosts on the Indonesian side. However, it was reported by the leader that there were some difficulties in adjusting opinions within the Japanese working group on how to coordinate the co-hosting of the symposium by the two institutions in Indonesia, and a lack of mid-level Japanese researchers specializing on Island Southeast Asia who could help organize the symposium.

With this situation in mind, the leader had a talk with the chair of the working group, and they reached an agreement to scratch the plan to hold the symposium in Indonesia. A proposal was made to examine the feasibility of holding it someplace else in Southeast Asia, possibly in Mainland Southeast Asia.

Because this represented a major shift from the original plan, many opinions were put forth over the proposal. They included the pros and cons of the change of plan, as well as the feasibility of other sites. In the end, the leader’s proposal was approved, but it was also decided that while keeping an eye on the deadline for applications for a grant for international conference provided by Kyoto University, we would explore and examine other possible sites.

Accordingly, though it was initially thought that this month’s meeting would end in record time, there was a hot debate over the last agenda item, and the meeting ran until 12:00, the scheduled ending time. As the saying goes, “bad luck turned into good,” it would be wonderful if this change of plan could serve as a catalyst mobilizing the capacities of the members of the program toward the successful holding of the international symposium.

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