What's New from the Secretariat March

The March meeting of the Executive Committee was not held according to the ordinary schedule, but on the 9th, the second Wednesday of the month. This was the last meeting to be attended by me, Kato, who worked as the Program Leader up to this point, and who was the main writer of “What’s New from the Secretariat.”

The first report item this month, partly because the meeting took place at the end of the fiscal year, was the final confirmation of the state of budget execution. It was reconfirmed that each division and sub-division are scheduled to complete the budget execution by the end of the fiscal year. Speaking of the budget, the budget proposal for next fiscal year was approved within one of the agenda items. With regard to the FY2005 program budget, which had been originally adopted in FY2002 as part of the five-year budgetary plan, the notice of the semi-formal decision of the budget is divided into funds for direct costs and overhead costs (making up 10% of direct expenses). Stated in a textbook manner, the former is the budget for the substantial part of the program, whereas the latter is the budget for the operation of the program, such as overhead including administrative personnel expenses as well as utility charges for running laboratories for experiments in natural sciences.

The semi-formal budgetary allocation for our program is 98 million yen to cover direct costs and 9.8 million to cover overhead costs. Our budgetary request for next fiscal year was 164 million yen, meaning that we will receive 59.8% of the request if we consider direct costs alone, and 65.7% if overhead costs are included. It is unclear whether the funds for overhead costs will be given directly to each program or managed as a whole by the university administrations, but our program’s budgetary plan was compiled based tentatively on the assumption that half of the funding for overhead costs will go directly to the program. In this case, this will amount to just 62.7% of the requested budget, the lowest ratio so far. This shows how difficult the budget formulation process for next fiscal year was at the divisional and sub-divisional level. The tougher things get, in fact, the more the mutual understanding or lack thereof between Executive Committee members is tested. The presence of such mutual understanding among us is attested to by the fact that there was no major disagreement over the planned budget.

At this month’s meeting, there was an extremely encouraging report. A book on fieldwork will be published, based on the graduate student workshop held at the end of October last year, under the theme of “Spinning from Fieldwork -- Process of Discovery and Analysis.” This report was given by Research Associate Yanagisawa Masayuki of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), who was in charge of the workshop and carried out the negotiations with NTT Publishing Co., Ltd. The active editorial work will be carried out by the Editorial Committee, made up of Yanagisawa and three graduate students. They have already begun the editorial work, aiming to publish the book in November of this year, formally under joint ASAFAS/CSEAS editorship. It would be very nice if this book, as a by-product of last year’s workshop, can give young people intellectual stimulation toward planning and carrying out fieldwork, and greater power to act.

There was also a report on the International Symposium to be held in Bangkok next year. In April, a working group including staff from the University Administration Bureau’s Department of International Affairs will be set up, and a concrete plan for the symposium will be developed, while keeping an eye on the budget situation of the university side. In parallel with the symposium, a poster session under the initiative of graduate students, and study tours to Myanmar and Laos are being planned. The outlines of those events are scheduled to be released in April. We hope that graduate students and young researchers from ASAFAS and CSEAS will participate actively in these programs.

From the Public Relations Section, there was a report giving data for accesses to the program website during the roughly two years since its launch in March 2003, arranged by month, time of day, and country. Apparently these data were a present from the Public Relations Section and the administrative assistant in charge of the website on the occasion of my departure, and I was very moved by the kind gesture. There have been roughly 50,000 accesses since the counter was installed. The accesses come from over 40 countries, and the international nature of the accesses can be seen by the fact that one of the peak access times is 4 a.m. Japanese time. Looking at the domains of people accessing the website, they cover a wide range of areas, coming not only from academic domains but from the mass media as well. The website is the life of the program, and this data will surely help us come up with ideas on how to improve it.

As an item for discussion, it was confirmed that three new core members will be added to the new Executive Committee, to make up for the departure of two members of the program, including myself. Other important matters to be decided included the hiring of three COE researchers for FY2005 for field stations in the Africa Section, and the decision on graduate students to be dispatched to field stations in FY2005. The recruitment of COE researchers was held from January 26 to the end of February on the website, and the results of the decisions were approved for the hiring of one person for the Tanzania FS (April 1 - March 31), Ethiopia FS (October 1 - March 31) and Kenya FS (April 1 - March 31). Looking at students, 18 will be dispatched to FSs in the Asia Section, and eight to FSs in the Africa Section. Because the number of people is larger in the Asia Section, the budget for each will have to be severely curtailed.

For me, this was the last Executive Committee meeting, so in my closing words, I touched upon several future tasks for the program. On the issue of “comparative area studies between Asia and Africa,” which was among the points that were brought up in the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)’s mid-term evaluation, concrete efforts are being made in this Executive Committee, based around the Field Station Division, as seen by the launching of the comparative area studies working group at this meeting. The remaining task is how to put forward concrete results on “integration of social sciences and natural sciences (transdisciplinary integration)” and “redefining the proper form for FSs” (for example, devising new fieldwork methods using FSs). There are also a number of tasks to be managed, such as setting the theme and organizing committee for the international symposium to be held in Kyoto in FY2006, the last year of the program and the filing of an application for a new graduate student educational support program for the period after the end of the 21st Century COE Program. As is the case for piloting a jet plane, it seems that the landing will prove to be much difficult than the take-off. The program will continue to move forward after April under the leadership of Ichikawa Mitsuo, the new Program Leader, and Sugishima Takashi, the Secretary General. I give my thanks and best wishes to both of them and all the program members.

Well, then, this is the last “What’s New from the Secretariat” under my editorship. I would like to express my deep gratitude to all the faculty members, administrative assistants, staff members and graduate students who have supported the administrative system of the program. Without their cooperation, I would not have been able to carry out my duties as Program Leader for the past three years. I also would like to thank all the people inside and outside the program who loyally read our website and e-Newsletter. I would like to ask for your continued cooperation and support to the program.

As I wrote in the March edition of the e-Newsletter, farewell, and let’s zaijian (meet again) on the website! (Kato)

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