3. Future Prospects
ISS views its future prospects by confirming the previous directions of its development as described above and confronting various ongoing issues. Its medium-term missions are: the review and re-formulation of the meaning of social scientific research based on comparative, comprehensive, and empirical methods; the promotion of institute-wide Joint Research projects on the basis of the active and creative research being carried out by members of its staff; the strengthening of ISS as an international center of research on Japanese society - the main arena of ISS research activities; and the expansion of the activities of the Information Center for Social Science Research on Japan, which provides the fundamental resources for achieving the preceding aims. Specific areas of endeavor are as follows:
1) Promotion of International Research Projects
ISS will take up fundamental issues facing Japanese society in the twenty-first century as topics of institute-wide research projects, and undertake multiple research projects in an interrelated and multi-layered manner. Unified topics, such as “Contemporary Japanese Society” or “The Twentieth-century Global System,” have been taken up and dealt with as separate projects. From now on, ISS will pursue “coordinated independent” or “multilevel studies” research projects. Utilizing the know-how accumulated through many years of joint research and making the most of the international networks it has built up, the Institute will organize international joint research programs with researchers overseas and publish their results not only in Japanese but also in other internationally-used languages. A research support system necessary for those purposes will be constructed within ISS. Efforts will be made to involve young researchers in these projects, thus encouraging their research and furthering their training. ISS aims to become the prototype of a project-oriented institute.
2) Node Linking Western and Asian Research on Japanese Society
ISS aspires to become the nerve-center of international networks of research on Japanese society in the social sciences. It makes an especially conscious effort to serve as the node of research interchange between the United States and European countries on the one hand, and Asian countries on the other. Having already concluded exchange agreements with leading Japanese Studies institutions overseas, ISS will cultivate these relations to form networks of a more substantive nature and focal points for exchange in a systematic and innovative fashion. ISS has a long and impressive record of hosting visiting professors from overseas, and many of its “alumnae” are leading scholars in various parts of the world today. This personnel network is a great asset for ISS, which can expect them not only to take part in institute-wide projects and contribute their talents to its research but also to cooperate with various other ISS activities. ISS recognizes the valuable resources these scholars have to offer and hopes to be able to make effective use of them. On the other hand, with the expansion of the social science research network, the necessity to extend assistance to young non-Japanese researchers of Japanese studies is bound to increase, and it will, therefore, be important to expand the organization to meet this demand.
In editing the internationally-refereed journal, Social Science Japan Journal, the editorial board based at ISS receives papers contributed by scholars of Japanese Studies from around the world. Experienced scholars in the relevant field are requested to read and review these papers with a view to their suitability for publication. The editorial work for the journal is of great significance not only in that it supports the transmittal of the achievements of social science research on Japan to the world but also in that it further cultivates the international network of researchers of Japanese Studies. ISS plans to further improve the content of the journal by strengthening its editorial policies and procedures.
3) Accumulation, Development, and Analysis of Empirical Data, and Dissemination of Results
The Information Center for Social Science Research on Japan, a subsidiary facility of ISS, will promote and expand its activities in two areas: the development, accumulation, and analysis of empirical research data on Japanese society; and the development and dissemination of new methods of online transmission and electronic communication of research results.
The Social Science Japan Data Archive, set up by the Information Center in April 1998, is the first archive of its kind in Japan that collects, organizes, preserves, and makes available data for secondary research in the social sciences. Already enjoying high international regard, the SSJ Data Archive will continue to expand its agreements with research institutes for contributions to its data stores and will work to conduct surveys of data for public use and improve its service for users. In order to further new methods of quantitative data processing and study methods of their application, more resources to handle new fields of research will be developed within the Center. The Center will also continue experimental development of a multi-lingual communication network system (Chinese, Hangul, and other languages, in addition to English), a project that is ahead of its time anywhere in the world. Plans are being made at the University of Tokyo to establish an integrated educational and research organization for information studies encompassing humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, and the Center will need to maintain close ties with the new organization.
4) Development and Improvement of Educational and Training Functions
Some research activities are inextricably related to educational activities, and participation in research activities may be valuable from an educational point of view. In such cases, ISS has to perform educational and training functions. ISS staff cooperate with various departments of the University of Tokyo and contribute to education at the Graduate School. ISS itself considers specific “on-the-job research education” activities as follows:
(1) The Information Center for Social Science Research on Japan obtains data from data archives overseas for students, graduate students, and faculty of the University of Tokyo, and provides data to its users. It is also in the process of gathering in its data archive the results of surveys conducted by ISS in the past so as to make the data available to future researchers. It is important and useful that ISS staff assist and train young researchers-including graduate students-within and outside the University who are engaged in empirical research on Japanese society. ISS staff should be able to facilitate the use of the SSJ Data Archive, the analysis of survey data and resources, and the use of valuable literature and documents housed in the ISS Library collection. ISS will consider establishing a regular system to provide such training.
(2) An educational activity broader in scale than such training is graduate education drawing on the comprehensive achievements of social science research on Japanese society. ISS will likely have to consider setting up a new educational organization for research on Japanese society with the cooperation of various research facilities of the University of Tokyo that conduct research on Japanese society using methods and approaches different from ISS.
5) Toward a New Dimension in Comprehensive Empirical Social Science Research from the Perspective of International Comparison
Since its shift to the four-division system, ISS has undertaken to foster comprehensive and empirical research in the social sciences from the perspective of international comparison. Working in fields of research that are flexible and fluidly defined, multi-level joint research activities have been propelled by the energy of staff members’ independent basic research in their individual fields of specialization. These endeavors as a whole have developed ISS research activities in the directions mentioned above. However, one must question whether “comparative, comprehensive, and empirical” research in its traditional sense is still valid in dealing with problems confronting contemporary social science research. The methodological significance of such research has to be seriously reexamined. How ISS can be more committed to specific policy issues that face contemporary society is also an important challenge for ISS research activities. In order to fulfill these tasks, it is necessary to improve the ISS research system (the four-division system) and open up new dimensions of social science research at ISS. In these endeavors, ISS must consider fully its relation to the proposed new research facilities at the University of Tokyo and construct research networks within and outside the University.