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To create a "place" where young, excellent talents will come together from all over the world

Waseda Institute for Advanced Study

If you have heard the words "Institute for Advanced Study," the first thing that comes to your mind might be the Institute for Advanced Study of the Princeton University in the USA. It is one of the world's leading research institutions that had nurtured outstanding talents in the scientific community of the twentieth century including Einstein of relativity theory (physics), G旦del of Incompleteness Theorems (mathematics), von Neumann of computer theory, to name a few. It is not only an excellent research institution. What is unique about it is its organizational and research management methods: it is an independent research institution; it is an interdisciplinary research institution across the field of humanities and science, composed of the four schools including natural science, mathematics, social science, and historical studies; and it is the place where the researchers, who are selected every year from various institutions throughout the world, compete in their researches under the guidance of faculties who play role as supervisors. The "utopia" environment is there for the best researchers to perform their best research.


Logo designed with WIAS, the abbreviation of the Institute in English. The lower-case "i" was used for the "Institute" purposefully, meaning that the Institute aims to be a free-from customary, "independent" and "innovative" research institution.

The Waseda Institute for Advanced Study (WIAS) was established in September 2006 as part of the actions to materialize the future concept called "Second Founding," aimed in the 125th Anniversary Project of the University. The name "Institute for Advanced Study" has a connotation "of creating a place to nurture excellent human resources for an excellent research university" to follow our great researchers in the past. It is an independent organization that does not belong to any other institutions in the University. WIAS supports interdisciplinary researches across natural science, social-science, and humanities. While recruiting young and excellent researchers from both inside and outside of Waseda and Japan, it invites internationally renowned researchers as senior research fellows to facilitate mutual effect beyond the generation. There are hardly any examples in Japan that has adapted such drastic system like this.

Director Kuniaki Tatsuta (center), Associate Director Hideaki Miyajima (right), Associate Director Tokuya Miyagi (left) who lead the Institute

The Waseda University decided to start WIAS as an independent business using self-funding, without relying on national grants. This decision shows the "aggressive attitude" of the University which aimed to make a leap forward as a research university. Furthermore, starting from Fiscal Year (FY) 2007, Waseda instituted the Tenure Track Program (*) for researchers in science and engineering fields within WIAS. We interviewed the people who are leading this challenging initiative: Dr. Kuniaki Tatsuta, Director and Professor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering (introduced in "Knowledge Co-Creation," August 2009), Dr. Hideaki Miyajima, Associate Director and Professor of the Faculty of Commerce (introduced in "Knowledge Co-Creation," December 2008), and Dr. Tokuya Miyagi, Associate Director and Professor of the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

* Waseda was selected to receive Science and Technology Promotion Adjustment Expenses for "FY 2007 Programs to Promote Environmental Improvement for Independence of Young Researchers" from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Science and Technology. The Tenure Track Program allows the young researchers with fixed-term appointments to gain experiences as researchers in a self-reliant research environment and provides an opportunity to become a tenured (full-time) faculty following strict review.

"Knowledge Co-Creation," August, 2009. Dr. Kuniaki Tatsuta, Faculty of Science and Engineering.

"Knowledge Co-Creation," December, 2008. Dr. Hideaki Miyajima, Faculty of Commerce

To nurture a broad view based on intellectually stimulating input from different fields

Currently in Japan, not many full-time positions are offered at universities and research institutions, as compared to the number of young post-doctoral researchers. And it is an issue for many young researchers that, even after earning a doctorate, their career is not secured. Although it differs depending on the specialized field, it is true in general that there is a need for a completely new system, instead of a traditional faculty system, to bring out young researchers' motivation and capabilities. A new "place" is demanded to offer a free research environment for growing self-reliant minds and an appropriate competitive environment in order to nurture excellent researchers who lead the next generation. In order to respond to this demand, WIAS was established.

The "monthly research meetings," where young researchers present their work every month, is a stimulating environment where the young researchers of different fields get together and exchange opinions.

"WIAS is an interdisciplinary research institute for the fields of natural science, social science, and humanities. This enables the researchers at WIAS to be stimulated from various fields. It is not so desirable, in general, for the researchers to focus only on their own specialized field and not to connect with other fields from the perspective of academic growth and human development. Although this may be acceptable for a very few numbers of geniuses, WIAS emphasizes the development of individuals who can understand the diverse values with a broad view while focusing on their own specialized field, and who can grow themselves even further with it." (Dr. Takita, Director)

Currently, WIAS hosts a total of 46 young researchers; 10 in natural science, 13 in social science, 9 in humanities, and 14 tenure tracks in science and engineering. Each researcher has an independent laboratory and is working on his/her own research. In their monthly reporting meetings, two researchers from different fields will make presentations and lead the discussion.
"The ability of interdisciplinary communication is essential for future researchers. It is often the case that comments on the research presentations by people from other fields become a breakthrough for unresolved matters or lead to unanticipated ideas. (Dr. Miyajima, Associate Director)

Overall activities at WIAS

Provision of a "place" to challenge possibilities

WIAS offers 3 years fixed-term appointments (maximum of 5 years for tenure track) for young researchers. They are allowed to teach 3 classes at other undergraduate schools, etc. At the same time, they are encouraged to actively participate in the national large-scale joint research projects and in the activities of the Project Research Institute, which is the Waseda University's unique interdisciplinary joint research system. For example, Dr. Hiroyasu Iwata, Associate Professor of the School of Natural Science (Tenure track, introduced in "Knowledge Co-Creation," November 2009) led the "TWENDY-ONE" (a robot that can coexist with human beings) project. Dr. Tsuyoshi Kitamura, Associate Professor of the School of Humanities (introduced in "Knowledge Co-Creation," June 2008) participated in a project of the Institute for Ryukyuan and Okinawan Studies, Organization for Asia Studies, Waseda University. Like these examples, many researchers are involved with diverse research activities.

"For the humanities field, some researchers tackle one theme over the years and carefully analyze the observational data and interview results collected from long-term field work. For this type of researchers, precious result might mean a book compiled of a research results over the years, in addition to writing many research articles every year. Thus, it is necessary to understand the research styles that are appropriate for each research field of natural science, social science and humanities." (Dr. Miyagi, Associate Director)

The tenure track program for the science and engineering fields from 2007 is a program to develop individuals who could be full-time professors over the maximum of 5 years (reference to the figure below). Waseda University was the first private university to receive support by the Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology. At that time, the University set up a high goal to "open up new areas and develop human resources who would contribute to the establishment of a global research university."

"We would like our researchers to thrive on the things that no one has done so far and boldly take on risky research. To achieve this, we are now exploring the best approach; whether it is a competition style or a training style. If not careful, one tends to fall into the thinking of "this should be enough" and take a conservative measure to easily produce results. In that case, it makes no sense to create this system. We want the researchers' to cause the university to consider creating a completely new position for this person." (Dr. Tatsuta, Director)

Not everyone in the tenure track program can reach the end of the program and obtain the tenure position. In 2009, at the third year of the program, a mid-term evaluation was conducted.
"The researchers were at various levels: there were some whom we want to promote to full-time immediately, some whom we expect to certainly grow in a few years, some whom we think need a little support, and others who are struggling to grow." (Dr. Tatsuta, Director)
"There are some researchers who are more suitable to be a corporate researcher or work for a consulting firm. We are trying to think about the appropriate career with each researcher for their future" (Dr. Miyajima, Associate Director)

In order to establish the tenure track system, it is necessary for the other universities to also adopt this system. "We would like this system to be adopted, in particular, by private universities. In Japan, there are more private universities than national universities, and the number of faculties is larger among the private universities than national ones. There is a need to enhance the research power of the private university; in order to achieve this. We believe it is important to increase the transferability of human resources among private universities." (Dr. Tatsuta, Director)

WIAS "Knowledge Co-Creation," November 2009. Dr. Hiroyasu Iwata, Associate Professor

WIAS "Knowledge Co-Creation," June 2009. Dr. Tsuyoshi Kitamura, Associate Professor

Overview of the tenure track system at WIAS

600 people had applied for the 10 researcher openings

Seminars inviting top-rank researchers from overseas also often take place. The picture shows the lecture by Dr. Kent E. Calder (Professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Director of Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian studies).

Since the establishment of the WIAS three years ago, the reputation of WIAS has already been spread overseas. For the recruitment of researchers, approximately 600 people had applied for less than 10 researcher positions.
"Because of an ever-increasing reputation of WAIS, a positive cycle has already been created in which excellent people apply every year. This is a very important factor to enhance the status of WIAS. We had been broadening the applicants' base by spreading the following message among the researchers that we know all over the world; "If you know a young excellent researcher, please let him/her apply for our program." (Dr. Miyajima, Associate Director)

"Increasing the number of applicants is meaningless unless it would lead to the improvement of the quality. From now on, we would like to aim at reaching a higher status as a research institute by strategically combining two recruitment systems; one that would not be strictly bound by specific research fields, and the other that would be in the area of our university's existing priorities. We believe that WIAS should become such a research institute as foreign young researchers would target its researcher positions and apply for it." (Dr. Tatsuta, Director)
In fact, increasing numbers of researchers are now wishing to come for training in the fields that Waseda University leads the world such as Asia study, Robot technology, and nano-chemistry.

There is also a movement to organize a meeting, in the near future, of approximately 20 international research institutes, which bear the name of Institute for Advanced Study. The international network of Institutes for Advanced Studies, which is different from the network of universities, will give us further new stimulation.

Related links

Waseda Institute of Advanced Study

Waseda Institute of Advanced Study, Tenure Track Program

Programs to Promote Environmental Improvement for Independence of Young Researchers: Homepage for the young researchers recruitment (Science and Technology Promotion Adjustment Expenses)