[Previous] [Next]

3    Review of Various Aspects of the Institute

| 3.1 Buildings | 3.2 Support Staff | 3.3 Graduate students | 3.4 Foreign researchers | 3.5 Visiting scientists | 3.6 Library and Computer network |

3.1    Buildings

Improving the buildings at ISEI was one of the main points of the last report (1994). By the move of medical doctors to their main campus in Okayama, ISEI acquired their space in the main building. Furthermore, an excellent new building was constructed for ISEI in 1998. Accordingly, the research environment at ISEI has experienced the most dramatic improvement in space. The new building as well as the older main building were in excellent condition when we visited. The PML has a coherent arrangement of their equipment in very-well designed clean rooms. On the contrary, there is some equipment that is scattered or isolated in other branches. Since the Institute now has grown into a large complex extending over as many as five separate buildings (including small research labs), how to maintain close communication between the researchers is of concern. Some rearrangement of equipment and research rooms may help (e.g., setting up institute-wide analytical facilities).

3.2    Support Staff

The last Report said; "One of the most important problems appears to be insufficient personnel. The present number of faculty at ISEI is grossly insufficient for maintaining the array of modern instruments at state-of-the art levels. It was also pointed out that non-existent technical support staff is a problem that requires immediate attention. In US and Europe, it is inconceivable that a modern laboratory can be operational without competent technical support staff. If this is a common problem among Japanese institutions, the Ministry of Education is encouraged to make urgent efforts to find solutions."
We must retain the above paragraph in that ISEI did not receive any additional positions for technical support staff at the time of its reorganization. The situation was improved in part in that several temporal research positions (COE-PD) have been given to ISEI. A great part of the Institute's scientific activity, as well as setup, calibration and maintenance of instruments, is being supported by the COE-PDs. In the current system, a COE-PD cannot extend their appointment for more than three years. This is reasonable from the viewpoint of mobilization of young scientists. From the standpoint of their role in supporting the laboratories, the maximum term of COE-PD appointment may better be extended.
Although it may be difficult to achieve for administrative or budgetary reasons it should be stressed out that the most efficient technical support for such sophisticated equipment is the combination of dedicated scientific staff and research students (existing at ISEI) and the long-lasting efforts of a few (in this case 2) high-level engineers having a full knowledge of all the equipment and the history of their modifications. Obviously these cannot correspond to short-term positions.

3.3    Graduate students

Lack of an adequate number of graduate students has been a recurring difficulty in ISEI. This is primarily due to the location of ISEI in a small town. Although there is an Earth Science Department in the main campus of Okayama University, it seems of little help for ISEI since only a few graduate students have come from the main campus in the last five years. The paucity of graduate students at ISEI may continue because of the recent expansion of graduate student education programs in many major universities while the number of their undergraduate student has remained constant. In view of the fact that ISEI is the center for materials research in solid earth science in our country, the lack of adequate number of graduate students is a great loss in our science community.

3.4    Foreign researchers

During the last five years, ISEI has received ca. 20 foreign researchers as COE or JSPS Fellows. M. Walter came originally as one of the COE researchers and became a staff member of ISEI. Xianyu Xue (wife of M. Kanzaki) runs the NMR laboratory as a COE Fellow. Due to the presence of many foreign researchers, ISEI has become truly international. Considering ISEI's isolated location from major cities and its relatively young history, it is surprising that all of the staff members and post-docs are at least bilingual (in Japanese and English). This may be related to the fact that ISEI has accepted large numbers of foreign researchers and organized two international symposia in Misasa in the last five years.

3.5    Visiting scientists

The ISEI has shifted gears from a nation-wide user-based organization to a more sophisticated research oriented institute. Due to this change of emphasis, the number of visiting scientists to ISEI has been decreasing over the last five years. Nevertheless the number of invited researchers (who have stayed ISEI to conduct collaborative research with ISEI staff members) is increasing. It was noted in the previous report that ISEI staff member were unhappy with the need to assist a great many visiting scientists (annually ca. 200) without adequate technical supporting staff. We agree that the shift of emphasis from a large number of visiting scientists to smaller number of invited researchers (annually ca. 50-70) may be beneficial to increasing the quality of ISEI.

3.6    Library and Computer network

In the previous report, the poor condition of ISEI library was noted. The situation for the library has deteriorated further since then. A significant change was made in the last five years in scientific journal subscriptions. Currently, most major journals in physics and chemistry can be accessed through the internet. A significant portion of earth science journals can also be downloaded from the internet. Furthermore, digital journals (e.g. G-cubed established in 1999) may replace conventional journals in near future. Considering these modern trends and the limited budget of a small isolated institute, it is not recommended that more money be put in ISEI library. It is more important (in fact) to increase the capacity of the computer network between ISEI and the main campus of Okayama University and perhaps its link to Osaka University.

[Previous] [Next]