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Japanese Trip by DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek

Discussion of science policy questions with Japanese partner organisations and universities

(29.03.17) From 6 to 10 March 2017, DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek was in Japan to meet representatives of Japanese partner organisations and universities. The DFG delegation also included Dr. Johanna Kowol-Santen (acting head of the Scientific Affairs Department and head of the Chemistry and Engineering Sciences 2 Division), Dr. Jörg Schneider (Head of the International Affairs Division and Head of the DFG Office Japan) and Kathrin Kohs (Director of the International Affairs Division).

Dorothee Dzwonnek during her speech at Kyoto University
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Dorothee Dzwonnek during her speech at Kyoto University


Together with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), the DFG is currently funding three International Research Training Groups. On Monday, 6 March, the DFG delegation visited the Joint Workshop of the Research Training Group “Selectivity in Chemo- and Biokatalysis” of RWTH Aachen University and Osaka University at the Awaji Yumebutai International Conference Center. In their welcoming remarks, Secretary General Dzwonnek and Dr. Mariko Kobayashi (Director, International Programme Department, JSPS) underlined the great importance and potential of this joint project for scientific cooperation between the two countries. Programmes such as this, which bring together researchers from a wide range of backgrounds, create a unique climate of innovation, said Dorothee Dzwonnek.

On Tuesday, 7 March in Tokyo, there was a joint event with the Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies of Josai International University. There, Secretary General Dzwonnek spoke about the results and successes of the DFG’s research-oriented equal opportunity measures. The event was introduced by Professor Hiroko Hara (Graduate School of Humanities). Also in attendance was Miyoko Watanabe (Deputy Executive Director and Senior Director of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion of the Japan Science and Technology Agency, JST and member of the Science Council of Japan, SCJ and the Science and Technology Council of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, MEXT), who plays a central role in Japanese equal opportunity policy.

On Wednesday, 8 March, Ambassador Dr. Hans Carl von Werthern invited influential science policy representatives for lunch at his residence.

This was followed by a visit to the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTEP), a think tank within the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), during which the DFG delegation was informed about important aspects of the MEXT’s scientific policy. On the Japanese side, there was particular interest in the development of the DFG's grant and funding quotas in individual subject areas as well as in the effects of the Excellence Initiative on Germany as a science location.

During a dinner with the DFG’s most important partner organisations, represented by Prof. Yuko Harayama (Executive Member, Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, CSTI, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan), Mariko Kobayashi (Director, International Program Department, JSPS) and Yoshiko Shirokizawa (Executive Director, JST), topics such as the Lead Agency process were intensively discussed, as were ways to increase sustainable collaboration between the funding organisations with common review criteria.

The Japanese trip was concluded by a visit to Kyoto University, one of the oldest and most renowned Japanese universities, which has brought forth numerous Nobel laureates.

The programme included a meeting with the Vice President for International Affairs, Dr. Kayo Inaba and Prof. Yukari Mitsuhashi (Deputy Director, International Strategy Office). In addition there were discussions about the collaborative activities of the German-Japanese University Consortium “HeKKSaGOn” - with Heidelberg University, Göttingen University, the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, Kyoto University, Osaka University and Tohoku University.

Dr. Björn-Ole Kamm (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Letters), Prof. Yoshiko Takahashi (Graduate School of Science), Prof. Kanako Takayama (Graduate School of Law) and Prof. Kazufumi Yazaki (Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere) presented their research findings and reported on their experience with the dynamic of the cultural exchange between Asia and Europe, on collaboration with German universities and the establishment of a common university qualification, for which the Excellence Initiative is an important starting point. The funding of early career researchers, conditions for research funding and the role of the DFG on the international scene were discussed particularly thoroughly. In addition, the Japanese researchers reported that project funding as part of the Excellence Initiative in particular, has resulted in significant visibility and further subsequent funding in the Japanese research system. What is more, the DFG’s fundamental research funding in all areas was highly praised.

Another highpoint of the delegation’s trip was the speech by Secretary General Dzwonnek on “The Future of the German Research System and the Excellence Strategy – The Promotion of Innovation, Diversity and Excellence”, followed by an overview of the DFG’s funding opportunities by Dr. Johanna Kowol-Santen. The speech was followed by a lively discussion that continued into the networking session and led to a more concrete planning of further visits by the Japanese cooperation partners in the near future.

In the evening, the DFG delegation, representatives from Kyoto University and other high-ranking guests, including Prof. Dr. Tasuku Honjo (Prof. em. Kyoto University, member of the Leopoldina), Consul General Dr. Werner Köhler (Consulate General Osaka), Prof. Miyoko Motozawa (Osaka University, Seibold Prizewinner 2015) and Prof. Takahiro Shinyo (Vice President, Kwansei University, President of the Japanese-German Centre in Berlin, JDZB) met for dinner in order to discuss how German-Japanese cooperation should develop in the future.

This Japan trip highlighted the strong and trusting relationship between the DFG, the partner organisations and German and Japanese researchers, as well as the potential to continue strengthening and expanding this relationship.