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HOME  >  Research Grant Program  >  2017  >  Comments by Selection Committee Chair

Research Grant Program 2017

Comments by Selection Committee Chair

Toshio Kuwako
Representative Director of the Association of Consensus Coordinators, Japan
Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Institute of Technology

The Toyota Foundation has adopted Exploring New Values for Society as the theme for its Research Grant Program, pinning our hopes on people who have set their sights on research to seek out new values that will illuminate the future of a world currently in upheaval, amid the trend of fading passion for sublime idea common to all humankind and heightened inclination to self-centered individuals and nations. 

Obviously, the foundation expects excellent research outcomes that deliver on the theme of Exploring New Values for Society and contribute to society from such a perspective. However, this is not the only aim of the Toyota Foundation research grants. Another important goal of the research grant program is to support grant recipients to significantly develop as researchers who are able to contribute to society by advancing their own projects.

Now that the selection process for this fiscal year has finished, I am above all conscious of the fact that the researchers running the selected projects are definitely younger than in the past. When we carry out the annual selection for the research grant program, we always pin our hopes on finding promising young researchers. In the past their proposals tended to focus on the individual research grants, but in this fiscal year, we had many excellent proposals for joint research grants. The final selection includes past recipients of individual research grants who have now developed their research outcomes and submitted new grant proposals as leaders or members of joint research projects.

Among the thirty-one projects selected for the research grant program in this fiscal year, an overwhelming majority of twenty-nine projects are led by researchers who are in their forties or younger. In one case, a 43-year-old researcher leads a project that includes members ranging broadly in ages from their twenties to their seventies.

Of course, we have also selected many excellent proposals from young researchers for the individual research grants including three bold proposals for projects submitted by graduate students.

In today’s gender-equal society, there are high expectations of female researchers. On this occasion, nine of the eighteen projects selected for joint research grants are led by women.

There is yet another matter worthy of special mention. Research aimed at the theme of Exploring New Values for Society tends to be biased toward the humanities and social sciences. However, it is not possible for researchers in other fields such as medicine or science and engineering to avoid involvement with society. The tendency has been to entrust researchers in the humanities and social sciences with research involving society, but this time, we have also selected projects that, while including researchers in these fields, are led by researchers working in medicine or nursing care.   

As usual, the foundation received many proposals from both Japan and overseas. The Toyota Foundation Research Grant Program is noted for attracting many proposals from other countries, but it is remarkable how many Japanese researchers are working on projects overseas. The increase in the forms of international collaboration is unmistakable.

The selection committee evaluates the content of the research design submitted with each proposal, but we also pay attention to the structure of the project teams in the expectation that new research will emerge out of collaboration across diverse fields. We want applicants to keep such considerations in mind and to design innovative projects that bring together researchers from different fields when submitting proposals to the research grant program.

The research grant program has chosen thirty-one projects for grant in this fiscal year. The selection includes various fields of research, but they all share one characteristic—they are projects that will contribute to the theme of Exploring New Values for Society. Below, we introduce two projects that won the support of many committee members.

(A) Joint Research Grants

D17-R-0540 Dr. Akihiko Ozaki (Associate Director, Department of Surgery, Minamisoma Municipal General Hospital)
A Pursuit of Healthcare Promoting Well-Being in Fukushima: Towards the full recovery from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident

In addition to a comprehensive evaluation of cancer risks after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the accident at the nuclear power station in Fukushima, the research project attempts to clarify the nature of a public health system that enhances well-being among local residents in Soma and Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture. Focused on young healthcare providers and researchers, the ambitious project is an attempt to understand all aspects of the health impact of the nuclear power accident, and to further discussions about a vision for the region and society in the future. The project is expected to present concrete outcomes.  

(B) Individual Research Grants

D17-R-0128 Dr. Pawan Deep Singh (New Generation Network Scholar, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University)
India's Biometric Identity Project: Data privacy and new social values for wider society in the information age

The project attempts to clarify how notions of privacy are formed and institutionalized by studying the case of India, where there is a heated debate about the introduction of a biometric identity system. The ambitious research attempts to tackle head-on the use of information technology and human rights issues. Through a careful survey of resource materials and interviews, the project expects to add to the knowledge concerning new value creation, not only in India, but also in the broad-based society.

(Figures in parentheses are for previous year)
Applications Grants Selection Rate
(A) Joint Research Grants 452 (429) 18 (17) 4.0% (4.0%)
(B) Individual Research Grants 393 (449) 13 (23) 3.3% (5.1%)
Total 845 (878) 31 (40) 3.7% (4.6%)
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