It has recently been demonstrated that the time dedicated to research among faculty members of Japanese universities is declining. This development is ascribed to the fact that more time must be devoted to other tasks such as grant applications and project management.
In order to solve this problem, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has initiated a program to improve the research administration system. The University of Tokyo (UTokyo) has proposed two projects: “Formulation of Research Administration Skill Standards” and “Improvement of the Research Administration System.” The Research Administrator (URA) Promotion Office was established in the primary office of UTokyo.
To clarify the need for URA, tasks were itemized in collaboration with Japan’s “Consortium of Eleven Research Universities” (RU11). URA expectations are different from those in the United States. Tasks were divided into three categories: Research Strategy Development, Pre-Award, and Post-Award. Each task was then divided into three classes: primary, intermediate, and upper. Task contents are under construction. Once developed, the skill standards are expected to be used for job descriptions, evaluations, and URA recruitment.
Five universities, including UTokyo, had their proposals approved. Unlike the other universities, UTokyo has assigned 80% of the effort of URAs to graduate schools, research institutes, and Global COE programs. Both URA careers and research fields on each site are wide-ranging and varied. The URAs are responsible for strategy development, project formulation, and project managements at their sites. When they meet at the primary office, they are able to discuss their experiences and cases they have encountered. A set of best practices is expected to emerge from the system.
The projects will be completed in March, 2014. They are expected to establish an image of original Japanese URAs and their job descriptions.