Friday, June 03, 2005

Own-goal in the academic field?

SideLines, June 2005

Many academic meetings In Japan are organised in haste with invitations being sent out at the last minute to local and international participants. This haste often reflects budget-balancing efforts in administrative departments around the end of each financial year. The academic organisers do not know exactly what money will be available until very shortly before their spending deadline.

The result is that many participants do not have time to prepare full papers for presentation, and this in turn means that the work of writing, editing and translation must continue after the meeting in order to produce a set of publishable papers.
The whole process is rather back-to-front, and not cost-effective. More importantly perhaps, it gives the Japanese academic world a bad image locally and internationally, and makes it less likely that good people will be found to attend academic meetings.

Research is not a just-in-time factory process, and the presentation and publication of academic results is not like putting food into cans to fill orders for a supermarket chain. A lot of good research is done in Japan, and there are many good meetings. It is a pity that the funds that are available cannot be managed more flexibly and efficiently.

If you have had any experience of this, as a Japanese or as a guest in Japan, please tell me. I would like to collect some relevant reports (contrary reports are welcome). Please contact:

Dr Peter Matthews, Research Develepment Center, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka 565-8511, Japan (email pjm at gol dot com).

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