September 28, 2018

Working toward excellence in research administration

Shigeharu Kato, Executive Director, RIKEN


Though I’m sure that many readers of this quarterly are interested in its scientific content, I would like to take the opportunity to talk about RIKEN’s administrative departments and how their staff support all this excellent research output.

There are some 500 full-time and 300 part-time administrative staff at RIKEN, supporting approximately 3,000 research staff. This 800-odd group work on strategic planning and resource allocation, organizational management, human resource management, procurement and accounting, relationship management with the government and other stakeholders, facility and energy management, safety measures, and many other tasks. Without them, no actual research could be carried out.

Drawing on my experience at other institutes, I think there are three attributes that distinguish RIKEN’s support staff: their strong commitment to supporting scientists; close collaborative relationships with scientists; and the ability to translate scientific deliberation into language that is understandable and attractive to policymakers.

However, there are some fresh challenges ahead. Administrative staff are having to provide timely and effective administrative support as RIKEN rapidly expands and becomes a key science and technology hub. To cope with this, RIKEN’s management has strengthened the administrative training program and are working toward the optimal allocation and training of existing staff, as well as the optimal recruitment of new graduates and mid-career staff.

We have also begun a program to exchange administrative knowledge with other large, important institutions. The first RIKEN-Max Planck Society Administrative Roundtable meeting was held in Munich last October, thanks to the support of the top tier of MPG’s management. Participants report a quantum leap in their mindset about research administration. RIKEN will host the second meeting this fall. We are also very interested in networking in a similar manner with other institutes around the world so that we help each other to be as effective as we can be.

(RIKEN Research 2018 Fall issue)