What's New from the Secretariat January

The first meeting of this year, the Year of the Rooster, was held according to schedule on January 20, the third Thursday of the month. The last meeting of last year was held on December 8, and as you all know, the devastating Sumatra Earthquake and the resulting Indian Ocean Tsunami occurred on December 26, which fell between the two meetings. As of January 25, a month later, it is estimated that the number of people who were killed and missing will eventually climb to roughly 300,000. Members from ASAFAS and CSEAS have long been involved, both academically and personally, in the areas along the Indian Ocean, which were struck by the earthquake and tsunami, so it makes it all the more painful for us to think of the victims and their current plight. We would like to express our heartfelt sympathy to all those who suffered in the disaster.

One of the agenda items at the meeting was related to the disaster. A dozen or so of our faculty members and graduate students were in the affected countries at the time of the earthquake and tsunami, but it was reported that fortunately, all were safe.

There were two important reports this month. The first was activity reports from the field stations. As a preliminary step to compiling the annual report, oral reports were given on past activities during the current fiscal year, and on future plans for the remaining period of FY2004. The field stations take a variety of shapes: one in Africa consists of a few huts at the field site which serve as bases for fieldwork, while one in Southeast Asia rents research space at a partner university, and holds books and materials that can be used by local researchers and students. Looking at major plans for the remainder of the fiscal year, workshops will be held by the field stations in Laos and Myanmar. It was reported that faculty members or graduate students who are working in West Asia and Africa will be sent to the workshops, partly with the intention to “plant seedlings” for comparative area studies.

Another important report concerned the International Symposium scheduled to be held in Bangkok in November of this year. ASAFAS and CSEAS will take charge of the planning and operation, and with the participation of faculty members from several departments of Kyoto University, it will be held under the head title of the Kyoto University International Symposium. Financially, the main funds will come from the budget of Kyoto University, with some budgetary supplements from our 21st Century COE program. The theme of the symposium will be “Human-Nature Coexistence in a Glocalizing World: From the Perspective of Field Science.” It was also reported that partly because of the Sumatra Earthquake, and partly because the symposium will be attended by Kyoto University President Oike Kazuo, who happens to be a seismologist, a session is being planned on earthquakes and other types of disasters. Discussions are still ongoing to firm up the contents of the other sessions, participants, poster sessions, and study tours.

From the Public Relations Section, it was reported that the website has been upgraded to handle images and animations, and that some graduate students have already uploaded their research materials. In the future, in order to improve movie and animation content on the website, the Section plans to call for the active participation of faculty members and graduate students. The Section is also considering purchasing a new file server and adding a counter to the “Learn more about fieldwork!” section of the website.

In relation to the budget, there was a report on the state of execution of the current fiscal year budget, and the draft budget for next fiscal year was discussed. On the latter, we do not yet know how large the semi-formal decision on the budget allocation will be, so our discussions must remain general. At this stage, we already project a deficit of several million yen, and so we will have to adjust the draft budget after we receive the semi-formal notification of our budget allocation. Major changes to the existing budget for next fiscal year will be the setting of a quota for COE researchers at two or three field stations in Africa. The goal is to differentiate the FSs in Africa according to whether COE researchers are stationed there or not.

Another important item of discussion was the administrative system for next year. The leader will retire from Kyoto University in March, and a new administration, including his replacement, was discussed and approved. It is very much hoped that the program will make great strides forward, based on the new leadership to begin in April.

Speaking of great strides forward, a proposal was put forward by the Field Station Division regarding the incorporation of the perspective of comparative area studies into the program. The proposal involves the incorporation of cross-area activities such as sending students and faculty members to areas outside their own specialization. In any case, this will require budgetary allocations, and a decision cannot be made right away. However, we are about to enter into the final two years of the five-year program, and if we are to start experimenting with new ideas while maintaining continuity, it is now or never. While keeping an eye on the semi-formal budget notification, we will continue to think about how to realize this.

A five-year program is like a marathon. One gets exhausted as time goes on, and activities tend to become routine. In that sense, we should appreciate the tough grade (i.e., the second from the top out of four grades) we received in the mid-term evaluation, and as pointed out by the Field Work Division, should use it as a springboard for the invigoration of the program. (Kato)

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