National Institutes of Natural Sciences,
Inter-University Research Institute Corporation
Formation of an International Hub for Communities of Natural Sciences
December 8, 2005
Decision by the Board of Directors and Executive Meeting
June 19, 2014
Revised by the Board of Directors and Executive Meeting
The National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) is an organization of interuniversity research institutes assuming responsibility for scientific studies over a wide range of basic topics such as the cosmos, energy, substance & life. NINS aims at a deeper understanding of nature by mutually liaising with researchers in various fields in the natural sciences to contribute to the development of society. The interuniversity research institutes have been integrating opinions from the scientific communities in administrative decisions such as the selection of the Director, planning of collaboration and coordinated programs, and personnel for academic staff. This type of organization originated in Japan and is contributing to new approaches in the natural sciences by providing opportunities for collaborative research to university researchers.
Through collaborations with various scientific communities the five Inter-University Institutes constituting NINS have achieved prestige as Centers Of Excellence in their respective fields (astronomy, fusion science, molecular science, basic biology and physiology). NINS is striving to be the best in the world. Due to the universality of the natural sciences, however, the role of NINS is not confined only to Japan. The functions of NINS as an international hub include the promotion of cooperation with institutes abroad as well as with universities within Japan, the hosting of parent organizations to form scientific communities on a worldwide scale, and as a global supplier of research information. These efforts by NINS continue to meet and exceed internationally rising expectations.
In order to cope with the diversification of research issues and the accelerated progress of technology, international and interdisciplinary cooperation beyond the borders of nations and scientific fields is required. Natural science is developing autonomously by continuous generation of unrestricted ideas by individual researchers while research objectives continue to diversify. Knowledge obtained in each subject arouses new interdisciplinary interest and the seeds of new scientific fields are born. This transmigration will be repeated in the future as it has been in the past.
The natural sciences greatly benefit from the cooperation of researchers involved in an international, borderless exchange of ideas and research. Consequently the natural sciences can contribute enormously to global human welfare by helping to establish and nurture a new natural philosophy. Research into the natural sciences can also provide an important basis for national competitiveness. From these linked perspectives, a further comprehensive, systematic, and strategic approach in Japan is necessary in order to enhance international competitiveness as an international hub of communities of natural sciences while simultaneously enhancing the global prestige of Japan.
Through a combination of interdisciplinary activities between different fields and independent progress in specific, established fields, NINS aims to contribute to new developments in the natural sciences. This comprehensive approach means that NINS promotes the establishment and sustenance of Centers Of Excellence of interdisciplinary and international research through cooperation across fields of study as both an international hub of activity and a global leader.
To realize these aims it is important to establish an international researchers’ community to foresee and plan for the development of the natural sciences in the long term. NINS has established the International Cooperation Committee to play a principal role in the organization and promotion of international, interdisciplinary cooperation.
The essential development of scientific research is produced not by isolated research achievements within a given field but by circulating advances among different fields; in this way new communities are formed, new research fields are created and new possibilities beyond the limits of individual institutes can be explored. Herein lies the value of five separate research institutes cooperating in one organization. These tactics also enable and encourage cooperation with academic research organizations in the natural sciences abroad (with the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Germany, for example).
Furthermore, for international academic exchanges within existing fields in which each institute serves a major role, the International Cooperation Committee dispatches each institute’s research achievements and capabilities to the global community and clarifies their involvement in NINS, which facilitates the formation of an international network of researchers in the natural sciences that covers a wide range of academic fields.
The International Cooperation Committee evaluates and selects research exchange activities and determines action plans for the appropriate uses of resources in NINS to fulfill its mission and to support unrestricted international academic exchange among researchers. Moreover, by carrying out these activities through the International Cooperation Committee, NINS strives to foster internationally trusted excellence in research throughout East Asia as well as in Japan.
The International Cooperation Committee discusses and plans international strategies and assesses implemented projects in line with the goals of NINS. The International Cooperation Committee formulates policies for international contracts and the security of intellectual properties in cooperation with the Committee for Intellectual Properties in NINS.
In order to implement international strategic policies, the International Cooperation Office is established under the International Cooperation Committee. The International Cooperation Office is in charge of matters concerning international cooperation including interdisciplinary cooperation, in collaboration with the Research Cooperation and Liaison Office in NINS.
In implementing international strategies, the following perspectives and goals are paramount:
It is also important for the implementation of international strategy to effectively utilize the media for the publication of achievements of natural sciences research, to improve NINS capability to send out information on natural science research, and to continuously develop human resources. Japan has not always displayed an initiative equal to that displayed by the U.S. and Europe when it comes to the means (such as international conferences and academic journals) for publishing the results of natural science research and important achievements have occasionally not received adequate evaluation. In the new fields created by interdisciplinary cooperation, therefore, an appropriate system should be developed and carried out to secure the international initiative of NINS.
As for the development of human resources, NINS should establish career paths to ensure continuous evolution and growth in addition to providing academic positions for students and post-doctoral candidates. NINS, in close cooperation with its counterparts in academic exchange agreements, is working on a solution for a systematic international career path in the natural sciences for young scientists recruited from abroad.
NINS is also engaged in efforts to enhance support for research activities in basic science. These efforts include improving research facilities, creating and sustaining a welcoming environment for foreign researchers, and honing the abilities of the administrative staff in charge of international projects to cope effectively with international matters.
By realizing these strategies, NINS enhances its function as a core international hub
in the natural sciences.