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August 5, 2009

International review of RIKEN: 7th RIKEN Advisory Council (RAC) Report

Highlights

  • RIKEN is an ideal place for the development of interdisciplinary research at the forefront of science
  • RIKEN is encouraged to seek out and foster the development of creative individuals, especially young early- and mid-career scientists and Japanese women scientists
  • RIKEN is encouraged to further promote internal and external collaboration to contribute to the advancement of science

The 7th RIKEN Advisory Council (RAC) of leading experts from inside and outside Japan convened April 22-24, 2009, to conduct a review of the activities of RIKEN (Ryoji Noyori, President) and make recommendation. The RAC chair, Dr. Zach W. Hall (Emeritus Vice Chancellor, University of California, San Francisco, USA) has recently submitted the 7th RAC Report titled, RIKEN: Laying the Foundation for Creative Advancement.

7th RAC Report

The 7th RAC found "the overall scope and quality of scientific research at RIKEN to be outstanding, by both national and international standards," and noted that "RIKEN successfully combines 'small-scale' and 'large-scale' discovery research with mission-directed projects and with the development of world-class large-scale facilities in the physical and life sciences to . . . make it an ideal place for the development of interdisciplinary research, …." The Report also commended RIKEN for its "thoroughgoing response" to the recommendations of the 6th RAC. In particular "the consolidation and reorganization of the discovery Research Institute and the Frontier Research Institute into the new Advanced Science Institute" was heralded as "an important step toward encouraging interdisciplinary interactions and integrating discovery and development activities." The opening to the global community of existing infrastructure such as the Radioactive Isotope Beam Factory (RIBF), the NMR facilities in Yokohama, and the SPring-8 synchrotron, and RIKEN's plans for new large-scale projects involving the development of the X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) in Harima, and the Next-Generation Supercomputer in Kobe, were rated highly as being "in line with President Noyori's vision of RIKEN as an integral part of the international scientific community."

The Report made a number of recommendations to help RIKEN achieve is ambitious aim to "make dramatic advances in science and technology" by identifying and encouraging creative individuals. In particular, the 7th RAC recommended that RIKEN "encourage the independence and development of early-and mid-career scientists" and that it "more effectively" employ Japanese women scientists. RIKEN was also strongly urged to "increase the number of graduate students at RIKEN through alliances with Japanese universities."

The Report suggested that RIKEN "explore the possibility of new interdisciplinary initiatives in environmental sciences and in bioengineering," and expressed strong support for "reforms of the administrative systems of RIKEN," and the "formation of an Administrative Advisory Council to advise the President and Executive Directors on matters of management and administration." The Report concluded with the statement that "RIKEN is a unique and valuable scientific institution, poised to make vital contributions to Japan and to the world."