Interviews with the Director

Institute for Comparative Research in Human and Social Sciences (ICR)  was founded in June 2014.

Professor Tsujinaka, the director of ICR talked about activities and future prospects of this new institute.

 

Center Where Two Parallel Fields Harmonize

The name “Institute for Comparative Research in Human and Social Sciences (ICR)” packs-in much of the essence of humanity and social science researches in  University of Tsukuba. ICR includes the existing Center for International, Comparative and Advanced Japanese Studies and Research Center for West Asian Civilization, plus Research Group of Japanese and Japanese Culture. It brings individual researches together into one organization which enables researchers to grasp the whole picture of research. This new system promotes mutual communication between individual researches that makes it easier to do collaborative research and interact with each other. ICR is involved with a wide variety of fields such as politics and social science which analyze civic societies around the world; archaeology which explores cradle of civilizations and process of migration; linguistics and culture research which helps us to understand diversity within Japan as well as the world. Furthermore, we are also working on studies of India & Tibet and also Buddhism in order to host oversea educational research projects. On the surface it seems that there is nothing in common among these fields but actually they are closely related. For example, archaeology excavation research in politically unstable Middle East area depends on each country’s political condition. Moreover, language and religion have a great influence on building political ideology and culture. Actually, this relevance had not been realized by researchers until ICR was formed, but since then mutual importance has started being recognized. Fusion of different fields would not just mean setting out to create a new research field but creating a “run side by side” style which would stimulate various fields and increase the range of each research.

 

Connecting the World and Society with Technology

In recent times, the modality of social science field at universities is being called into question. The fact that it is hard to see the results of researches in the field of social science as meaningful to the world is often pointed out. Certainly since almost no experimental equipment or special facilities are needed and chances of adapting the result to manufacturing products is very rare, so to put it in extreme terms, researchers need not come to a laboratory to do their research. Therefore if a researcher devotes himself solely to the theme of his interest, it is easy to get into a “fox hole” and hard to get out from it. Getting out from the “fox hole” and sharing knowledge for the common good are now being asked for. Faculty of Humanity and Social Science is to study essential nature of human being as well as society and culture of human being. In modern society there is a gap between human and technology, which sometimes made new inventions and discoveries difficult to demonstrate enough ability. For example, new laws and infrastructures that are essential in a society where robots are widely used, ethics that deal with technology of managing life by human beings, and earthquake disaster reconstruction are some of the problems faced by human society and culture. It is not until new technology goes through the filter of Humanity and Social Science that it is utilized in our society. A new technology will be implemented to a society for the first time after going through the filter of Humanity and Social Science. ICR also “runs side by side” with scientific fields such as robot development, technology connections and societies. Humanity and Social Science is the key to promote international cooperation. Now University of Tsukuba has oversea offices in 12 different countries. Most of the opportunities of creating relationships with other countries are made by Humanity and Social Science’s research work. Taking the style of playing a part in Japanese governmental strategy such as making an advance into Africa and securing resources, we have strengthened cultural exchanges and educational exchanges. The accumulation of these endeavors made it possible for us to understand local societies and cultures, and have become the foundation to prepare the basis of our activity.

 

Opening the window to send out achievements and share information

   ICR also puts a great deal of effort in sending out “observable” achievements. In the field of humanities, style of publishing an achievement as a compilation decade by decade is an established practice and conference presentations tend to carry less weight. There are no internationally known academic magazines such as “Nature” or “Science”, so great research papers are frequently written only in Japanese. Even taking such circumstances into consideration, we regret that the attitude towards steady publication of our research was not sufficiently there. Though only once in a decade, the achievement that is well organized will be widely cited around the world for a long term. For this, however, it must be translated in English, Chinese or other languages. At least if a summary is translated in English, it will provide a chance for quotation or whole book quotation or even translation. Considering recent severe publication circumstances, we are backing researchers to send mid-flow research info and buried accomplishment of their researches through website. Electronic English Journal called “Inter Faculty” which published once a year from faculty of Humanities and Social Science is also of help. “Not just being lodged in academic area, but aggressively showing our knowledge by allowing people to hit the internet search engines will make it possible for people to get to our research. That means opening the window to the world.

 

Establishing Presence of New Humanity and Social Science

   Seminars, lectures and symposiums are held throughout the year. In most of them authorities in each field are invited. Also a lot of them are jointly hosted with domestic and international research organizations and some events will be held overseas. Not taking a biased view, we discuss wide range of themes from philosophy, archaeology, reconstruction from the earthquake disaster, internet society problems to safety guarantee issues. ICR is trying to work together with education, business and library information fields to develop as a whole academic research organization. There are around 350 researchers in the University of Tsukuba in these fields. As a matter of fact, it is a large group as 20% of the professors are related to these fields, and occupying a large percentage of foreign and woman researchers which is another characteristic of these fields. “We want to make a system and an environment that researchers of different fields can get together any time they wish and are able to concentrate on their research in a certain period of time.” Professor Tsujinaka talked about the vision of ICR. By stepping into each other’s research we will be able to structure information and knowledge and at the same time, we run side by side in different fields to be able to link bridge of technologies and societies. This new Humanities and Social Science field is about to born.