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HOME  >  Research Grant Program  >  2013  >  Comments by Selection Committee Chair

Research Grant Program 2013

Comments by Selection Committee Chair

KUWAKO Toshio
Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology

The Research Grant Program 2013, “Exploring Knowledge toBuild a Better Future,” is composed of the following three categories:“Research that Aims to Explore New Social Values (JointResearch Grant A1)”, “Research that Addresses Social Issues(Joint Research Grant A2)”, and “To Build a Better Future (IndividualResearch Grant B)”. For all three categories, the aim isto provide grants to forward-looking research projects gearedto solving problems. In general, academic research projects areexpected to arrive at objective, scientifically verifiable results.For our program, however, the goal is for grant recipients toengage in the sort of ambitious research projects that go beyondthe boundaries of conventional academic research.

The framework for this year was only just launched in the previousyear, and during that year the program achieved inadequateresults both in terms of the number of proposalssubmitted and the number of projects selected. This was perhaps because both researchers and members of theselection committee found it difficult to give shape to the objectivesof the program, based on existing methods of research.We have determined, however, that understanding of the programprinciples has gradually improved during the currentyear. We base this view on our impression that there surely hasbeen an increase in the number of proposals for ambitiousresearch plans.

The decisions made on which projects to award grants was theoutcome of lengthy, multifaceted discussion among the membersof the selection committee, which is composed of professorswith a wide array of expertise. One difficulty in particularfor the committee was the question of how to draw the distinctionbetween the proposals for A1 and those for A2 as therehad been quite a number of proposals sitting on the boundarybetween the two categories. This seems to show, however, thatthere were many proposals for research that seeks to createnew values through an engagement with concrete issues. Ithink this attests to how well those submitting proposals haveunderstood the aim of the Toyota Foundation Research GrantProgram.

For the A1 category, there were a noticeable number of proposalsfor projects that aim to come up with new ways of lookingat the relation between human beings and nature. Morespecifically, this includes research projects aimed at improvingsoil conservation by going beyond vertically segmented systemsof government administration and policy, searching forthe richness of the culture of farming through using and conservingindigenous crops, and fostering aquatic culture inurban areas by preserving pond areas.

The A2 category was characterized above all by proposals forresearch related to medical, health, and psychological care.These confront a variety of problems facing peopleand societies, including the issues of bullying and emotionalproblems, psychological problems for those affected by leprosyor by the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, andthe transformations of families in Asia.

For category B, the Individual Research Grant, it was touchingto see how many pioneering young researchers submitted proposals,particularly women. The variety of research themes includedthe issue of war and its psychological effects; the cultureof medical care; urban hygiene; rehabilitation of criminals; andthe rebuilding effort in the Sudan region of Africa. Tacklingsuch serious social problems requires strong motivation andthe courage to face difficulties. It is wonderful to see young researcherswho are willing to undertake such challenging research.I was particularly surprised to see how many youngwomen submitted research proposals. The researchers are likelyto encounter a variety of risks at the frontlines of their activities,so I hope that they will engage in sufficient risk managementand arrive at fruitful research results.

The results of the selection process demonstrate how youngwomen have been fostered as researchers and that these youngfemale researchers have been strongly attracted to the ToyotaFoundation Research Grant Program. As a member of the selectioncommittee, it is very gratifying to see that the selectionresults for the program has sufficiently met the expectationstowards gender equality, which has also been highly soughtafter in the field of academic research.

Category B targets individual research, but there were a noticeablenumber of proposals for research that envisages cooperationwith other researchers and stakeholders. Although it is difficultfor a young researcher to head up a research group, we wouldlike to see proactive efforts to extend an individual research projectinto a joint research endeavor, taking into consideration theconnection between category B and category A1 or A2.

I hope that the young researchers will not only engage diligentlyin their research but also capitalize on the opportunity of receivinga grant in order to hone their leadership skills. I wouldlike for them to consider the fact that the Toyota FoundationResearch Grant Program focuses on the development of researchthat goes beyond the conventional framework of academicresearch to also include the fostering of the researchersthemselves.
The table below lists the number of proposals and grants, aswell as the acceptance rate, for the Research Grant Programduring the current year. I hope that the grant recipients willgain a firm understanding of the program’s principles regardingresearch that contributes to society and also carry out solidmanagement of their research projects in conjunction with theoutstanding program officers of the Toyota Foundation.

I look forward to the outcomes of the grant recipient’sendeavors.

(Figures in parentheses are for previous year)
Applications Grants Rate
Joint Research A1 126 (149) 6 (5) 4.8 (3.4)
Joint Research A2 184 (236) 8 (8) 4.3 (3.4)
Individual Research B 327 (495) 19 (21) 5.8 (4.2)
Total 637 (880) 33 (34) 5.2 (3.9)
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