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IRCMS in Nature & Science… and in Action!

As it increasingly becomes a role model of internationalization and advanced research at Kumamoto University, members of the International Research Center for Medical Sciences (IRCMS) have recently found themselves featured in the journals Nature and Science. Follow their stories as well as how the center is leading the discussion on developing Japan’s research capacity below.



13 June 2022

NATURE NEWS CAREER FEATURE: Peer-to-peer careers advice for research managers


Laboratory managers from around the world recently had the chance to offer thoughts about the work they do and the opportunities afforded to them. Click through the image below to read how Kumamoto University laboratory technician Takako Keida has been able to find a successful work-life balance at IRCMS.  


Takeko Keida helps the next generation of scientists at IRCMS develop solutions for the problems of the future.
(Credit: Aiko Sada)


25 May 2022

SCIENCE INSIDER: Japan tries—again—to revitalize its research


The Japanese government is increasing its research budget again in an effort to improve the country’s impact in world research. Click through the image below to read what Director Toshio Suda and Professor Guojun Sheng from IRCMS (and others) have to say about the new plan.

Director Suda (left) and Professor Sheng (right) believe that Japan research needs more than money if it wants to remain competitive on a global scale.
(Credit: IRCMS, Kumamoto University)


28 February 2022

IRCMS in Action: Forum on Japan's Research Capacity Development in Kumamoto


The Forum on Japan’s Research Capacity Development was held as a webinar today and aided by simultaneous Japanese-English translation. With 140 people in attendance, the forum began with six presentations from Japanese and international researchers. The first session focused on the forum topic from the perspective of researchers, the second session from the perspective of policy makers, and the third session from the perspective of foreign researchers. (List of presentations provided at the end.)


In the second half of the forum, a panel discussion with the presenters from the first half covered many different topics and introduced a wide range of perspectives and interesting ideas. The topics discussed included:

  • diversity challenges in Japan
    • Dr. / Professor vs -san / sensei
    • English in the lab
    • low number of women, foreigners, minorities
  • (graduate) student training & treatment
    • “lab rat” vs professional with an overall view of the research
    • eliminate “degree factory” institutions
  • graduate education admissions systems
    • emphasis on grad school leading to admitting anyone regardless of ability
    • lousy people in == lousy people out leading to decreased trust from society
  • faculty-administrative staff relations
    • researchers & staff are not opposites and shouldn’t be treated as such
    • improve personnel management by taking advantage of strengths
    • personnel exchange between universities (domestic & international if possible)
  • young researchers
    • Kumadai-Hub allows discussion between young researchers of various fields
  • Japanese university leadership
    • How to elect leaders?
    • “servant leadership” where leaders absorb all opinions
    • 10 trillion yen institutional grant also expects management reform--dysfunctional??
    • leadership must create an enjoyable research environment
  • university management in a decreasing population
    • share resources between & collaborate with multiple universities
    • Top four universities in Japan have the same number of research papers as all the rest combined. If only the top are supported, even domestic brain circulation will become impossible.
    • Include representatives from all around the university (administration, faculty, etc.), rather than just a small number of people in the executive committee, in discussions about future plans and reforms.
  • global direction of Japanese universities.
    • We should not imitate or compete with the rest of the world, we should be developing original & unique university models for others.

After the forum, the participants were asked to fill out a simple questionnaire. Here is a small sample from the answers we received from the question, “What do you think is necessary to improve Japan’s research capabilities?” (Answers have been translated from Japanese into English.)

  • Eliminate the barriers that separate different departments and improve the status of young researchers and women.
  • Personnel selection that does not depend on Impact Factor (IF); a system that evaluates the conception and potential of even a single paper.
  • Since faculty do not necessarily make good management material, an administrator from outside the university should be recruited for the position of president. This person would collaborate with faculty for improved university management.
  • It is important for young / mid-career researchers to feel that research is enjoyable. Creating the conditions for this is difficult, but researchers and fields should grow if everyone concerned (PIs & policy makers) do not make a mistake with this point. This forum also made me realize that it is good to review and reflect on various goals, but being pessimistic about those goals may not necessarily be good for Japanese science.
  • Stable employment
  • These discussions have been repeated many times before but little has changed. We shouldn’t be looking to the future; the time for changes is now and we need to take on the challenge of reform with a sense of urgency.

------------------------- List of presentations -------------------------

​​Session 1: From a Researcher's Perspective

  • "From a Researcher's Perspective"
    • Takatsugu Taniguchi (Professor Emeritus, The University of Tokyo / Fellow, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo)
  • "Internationalization of Japanese Research: Through Research Activities in Switzerland and Kumamoto"
    • Hitoshi Takizawa (Distinguished Visiting Professor/Deputy Director, International Advanced Medical Research Organization, Kumamoto University)

Session 2: From a Policy-Making Standpoint

  • "Japan's Declining Research Capability as Seen in Data and Proposed Countermeasures"
    • Yutaka Hishiyama (Vice President, Tokushima University / Counselor, Kumamoto University / Former Director, NISTEP)
  • "From a policy-making standpoint"
    • Takuya Saito, Director, Human Resources Policy Division, Science and Technology Policy Bureau, MEXT

Session 3: From a Foreigner's Perspective

  • "The Challenge of Revitalizing Japan's Research Platform"
    • Piero Carninci, Team Leader, IMS Transcriptome Research Team, RIKEN
  • "Promoting Diversity"
    • Guojun Sheng (Professor, International Advanced Medical Research Institute, Kumamoto University)