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CSTI Expert Panel Interim Summary: Securing time to concentrate on research, promoting equipment sharing and collaboration across fields

2022.10.21

The CSTI Expert Panel has compiled a draft interim summary on how to secure time that can be devoted to research. The draft interim summary discusses four themes for research infrastructure and human support, such as the sharing of research facilities and equipment, and presents specific measures and issues to be considered in the future for each topic. Some of the issues were also included in the budget request by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). For the remaining issues, such as university management and evaluation, discussions and hearings will be held toward the end of the year and will be included in the final summary.

One of the factors contributing to the decline in Japan's research capabilities is the lack of time for research. Since April, the CSTI Expert Panel has been considering the challenges facing the government, university executive offices, and the research community under eight major themes, including reducing intra-university meetings, evaluation fatigue, and application fatigue.

The four themes that were covered were: utilizing research DX (digital transformation) and research data, promoting the shared use of research facilities and equipment, improving compensation for engineers and other professional personnel, and ensuring the quality and quantity of University Research Administrators (URAs).

For the shared use of research facilities and equipment, the first step is to spread the use of guidelines for promoting the shared use, promoting shared use at each institution through those guidelines, and understanding the status of equipment maintenance and shared use until the end of the current fiscal year. From the next fiscal year, data will be collected to visualize shared equipment and there will be consideration of a mechanism for understanding, through this data, the status of shared usage.

For initiatives going beyond university boundaries, there will be the promotion of joint usage and joint research systems centered around inter-university research institutes and joint usage/joint research centers. In the budget request for the next fiscal year, there are requests for the creation of a system that promotes cross-disciplinary collaboration and expands opportunities for researchers in a variety of fields to participate in joint usage and joint research systems. Additionally, there will be consideration of measures to promote equipment sharing through a framework of competitive research funds, while understanding the actual equipment sharing situation in typical competitive research funds and referring to overseas efforts.

For specialized human resources such as engineers, securing technical staff at each institution will be promoted by spreading guidelines for promoting the shared use of research facilities and equipment. A grasp will be gained on the situation surrounding technical staff utilization at institutions, and there will be considerations on the visualization of technical staff skills at the national level. In addition, the specialized knowledge training necessary for URAs and support for the operation of quality assurance organizations that accredit URAs will be provided.

Centered on institutions with strengths and distinctive research and hubs for social implementation and through its new project to promote the strengthening of regional core and distinctive research universities, MEXT, will construct strategies for increasing the research capabilities of institutions, including securing research time, and will then invest resources in those efforts for the university as a whole. Additionally, the expanded project to form a joint usage/participation research system will establish a research system, including appointing management personnel and securing technical staff, in order for national, public, and private universities across Japan to realize interdisciplinary joint research that transcends field boundaries. Furthermore, with the university fund, as well, within the current fiscal year there will be consideration of measures to realize a research environment in which researchers can freely devote themselves to cutting-edge research.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.(https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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