External Evaluation of the Global COE Program Ars Vivendi
2011/10/13 Place: #251 Keigakukan Building, Kinugasa Campus, Ritsumeikan University
by Professor Colin Barnes
■External Evaluation of the Global COE Program Ars Vivendi by Professor Colin Barnes
■Questions & Answers
[Q] Where did the idea for the setting up of Ars Vivendi come from initially? And what factors influenced its establishment?
[A] Before responding to this question, let us confirm that Ars Vivendi members consist of the Graduate School of Core Ethics and the Frontier Sciences and the Institute of Human Sciences of Ritsumeikan University.
Now let us explain our background. Many students who have disabilities by themselves, and who are interested in the relationship between disabilities or illness and the society have entered the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences and started their own research since April 2003. And there are some staff members of the Graduate School who have conducted research on such themes.
The Japanese government has started the "Global COE Program," which provides research grants since academic year 2007, and the Graduate School, together with the Institute of Human Sciences, decided to apply for the program and we used "Ars Vivendi" as its title. It took a lot of time before we decided its title--after we thought that the title of the program should be something which mainly includes disabilities and also includes variousness of our body concerning illness, aging, and sex and focused on practical research toward the life/survival of such people. At that time, we were not able to find an appropriate name in English. Instead, we used "ars vivendi" in Latin as main title and added "Forms of Human Life and Survival" as its sub-title.
[Q] Ars Vivendi is an interdisciplinary centre with core funding from the university? Given that some disciplines are considered more important than others (for example, those dealing with health and ‘rehabilitation’ are generally considered more important than others dealing with political, cultural and social issues) who determines how that money is spent in terms of supporting different disciplinary areas?
[A] As we mentioned in question 1, Ars Vivendi Program itself receives the grant from the Japanese government (the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology). In addition, Ritsumeikan University provides us with almost half the amount of grant compared with the ministry's grant. And this government's grant will end this academic year since it is a five-year program. However, the Research Center for Ars Vivendi will exist as a center at Ritsumeikan University to run our program. Therefore, we strongly believe this external evaluation is conducted not only to report parts of our program's achievements to the government but to ask Ritsumeikan University to provide us with continuous and constant support.
As you said, we also agree that such disciplines as health、"rehabilitation" can get the grant easily. The situation is same here in Japan. There are some areas in the Global COE Program and the area we applied is called interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and new area of research, and we have been asked to conduct interdisciplinary research. Although most of the other programs adopted at the time were natural science-based research, but it is a fact that our program was also adopted (or allowed).
And the research in the areas of medicine and social welfare, that is, areas viewed from the supplier side, inevitably has something that cannot be covered. And we believe our program was adopted because our insistence of seeing and considering the "something" obtained certain amount of understanding.
[Q] According to the website there seem to be six core staff members of Ars Vivendi but the documents you sent include references to several other professors from various disciplines? What is the relationship between Ars Vivendi and these scholars? How are they co-opted into the Ars Vivendi hub?
[A] The six core staff members mean staff members who run the organization (i.e., the Research Center for Ars Vivendi). And the Center's main project is Global COE Program Ars Vivendi. The list of researchers means its project member. The Center supports progress of projects is an administrative organization in charge of budget use. Global COE Program Ars Vivendi and the Graduate Schools staff members belong to (mainly the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences) are in charge of educational and research functions.
[Q] Could you please say a little more about the graduate school. staff? courses? How many students have passed through the School over the past 5 years? What awards do they receive: for example MA (Subject)? M, Phil? and PhD? and their destinations after leaving Ars Vivendi?
[A] The Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, the mother body of Global COE Program Ars Vivendi, a five-year graduate school which does not have undergraduate programs. There are 12 faculty staff (not all are full-time). The members of the Global COE Program Ars Vivendi consist of 17 faculty members--faculty of the three (publicness, life, and socio-cultural symbiosis) out of the four areas (publicness, life, socio-cultural symbiosis, and representation) the Graduate School has. In addition, there are faculty members from other faculty or graduate schools and also special invited professor from Africa Japan Forum, a non-profit organization. The faculty member's specialties are philosophy, science history, economics, cultural anthropology, comparative literature, biology, sociology, psychology etc. The faculty whose specialty is sociology is the most (there are 5 faculty members).
The Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences was established in academic year 2003 and there are 34 students who earned the PhD as of May 1, 2011. Getting a tenure career in research (i.e., university's faculty) after receiving the PhD is very difficult in Japan, too. As a result, many of people earned PhD work as post-doctoral fellow (limited year contract) whose grants come from either the university or the government or as part-time lecturer. However, one of our students got a job and work as lecturer at university in UK after receiving PhD and one student from Taiwan got a job and work at university in Taiwan after receiving PhD. Also, there are some who already have had job since their stay at the Graduate School (and keep the job after receiving PhD).
[Q] How is the School funded? Are students required to pay fees? Are there bursaries for students/ What support systems are in place for disabled students?
[A] Regardless of national or private university, students are required to pay tuition fee in Japan. Ritsumeikan University is private university and is run by tuition and government support and the tuition covers most of the university's budget. As for the tuition graduate students pay, it is not cheap in spite of the fact that there are varieties of scholarship systems. However, the graduate school is regarded not as a profitable segment (in terms of management setup by tuition students pay) but as the university's mission to conduct research or train researchers.
There is a Support Center for Disabled Students at Ritsumeikan University. Also, the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences provides text-data support for students with visual disabilities and deformity as paid work. Such budget comes from the university based on the government support etc. but it is not enough.
[Q] What policies are in place to generate research funding from external sources?
[A] We have been making every efforts to get research grant of the government（every year there is an open recruitment of the grant and applications will be examined by researchers). Compared with faculty members of other universities or other schools or graduate schools of Ritsumeikan University, the percentage of our acquiring such competitive grants is relatively high. We also anticipate private grants that understand our research activities and keep applying for them and earn some of them. However, since its scale is relatively small, the total amount of the private grant we receive is not so much.
[Q] According to the literature Ars Vivendi has links with government organizations and non government agencies: local, national and international, both in the public and private sectors. How are these links maintained?
[A] First of all, there are many graduate students who conduct various activities at private organizations. Our support to their research also becomes their organizations / organizations' activities. We have been conducting our educational or research activities utilizing not only such organizations but various local or national organizations. As for the government we have not had the direct relationship except for the research grant, but some of our members have advised diet members or people with important positions within the government or told them opinions based on the accumulation of our activities. Above all, we have worked with private organizations and advised to them concerning knowledge and policies. Our advices enabled those people / organizations to tell the local and national government their opinions or requested something that improves the situation.
Moreover, we have co-hosted various symposiums or seminars with researchers or activists in the world （parts of them work as key position that relates to the government). Especially, we have been keeping research collaborations with the two groups in South Korea that have MOU with us with support of international students and have held research seminar in Japan and South Korea every other year. For the outline of our first research collaboration with Association for Research on Disability Studies in South Korea in academic year, please look at the following URL:
The second research collaboration will be held in Kyoto in November）.
As for the outline of the first research collaboration with the International Academic Meeting of Disability Studies in South Korea, please look at the following URL:
[Q] What if any are the main difficulties encountered when working with non academic agencies? For example, when providing information to both academic and lay audiences including people with ‘learning difficulties’and Deaf people?
[A] First of all, our presentation medium is not always academic one. It includes articles in newspapers and journals that are open to public, and TV media etc. We also hold courses for citizens and conduct lectures etc. And visitors of our website (http://www.arsvi.com/a/index.htm), whose yearly hit is about 11 million, are various people who try to get useful information, not researchers.
One of the reasons we regard our website transmission important is because the information listed is accessible to people with visual disabilities and hand disabilities. However, it is still difficult for people with disabilities to access to paper-based letter information. First of all, our graduate school has provided text data for students with visual disabilities who study here although it is difficult to convert data using OCR and needs a lot of people's support because the kind of letter is too many. Moreover, we have been conducting research concerning how to make ways and framework popular to make such conversion and its distribution easier.
As long as letter medium transmission is concerned, there is no problem concerning deaf people. Although we have not made arrangements for them all the time, we have arranged sign language interpreter and captioning service etc. in case such people participate in our events.
We can use digital data (voice) in order to let some people with "learning difficulties" (who prefer voice information to letter information) know information. Of course, that does not solve everything. We have just started what else we can do in addition to that.
[Q] How do these agencies influence what research projects are conducted by Ars Vivendi staff?
[A] First of all, some people who belong to such agencies are our program's members. So far the Graduate School has accepted 7 students with visual disabilities, and 7 students with physical disabilities (5 out of 7 use wheelchairs), including a person who earned with Ph.D here (according to the person who is applying for open recruitment of a research institution, there are some doctoral theses which are written by people with complete blindness, but the person's doctoral thesis is the first one which is written by a person with visual disabilities). Also in this academic year we have hired five post doctoral fellow, two of who have physical disabilities and one of them is a total deaf person from birth. The percentage of our accepting such people with disabilities, compared with other graduate schools in Japan, is unfortunately very high. And such people themselves are involved in research concerning disabilities they have and make their research achievements.
And non-academic people, in addition to our members, have been involved in many of our events. For example, taking the opportunity of the Great East Japan Earthquake (http://www.arsvi.com/d/d102011-e.htm), we co-hosted a symposium concerning a disaster and disabled people in October. Its callers were people with dystrophy and ALS. And many of the presenters at the symposium were victims and their relatives and we were involved in this symposium as "cooperator". We have learned a lot of knowledge there and we are now summarizing those knowledge. Also, as for converting letters into digital data, we have exchanged opinions with national-class organizations for people with visual disabilities, or we held a symposium concerning communication for deaf and hard of hearing people by inviting a representative of its related organization and we have published its record (http://www.arsvi.com/b2010/1107sn-e.htm).
These show what we should investigate and consider from now on.
[Q] What mechanisms, processes are in place to evaluate Ars Vivendi’s impact as an educational and research hub in at the local, national and international arenas?
[A] First of all, we have this external evaluation which is evaluated by 3 researchers within Japan and 3 researchers abroad. We voluntarily ask these 6 evaluators in order to promote our research activities efficiently from now on. And there is an evaluation conducted by researchers who are appointed by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (evaluation organization). We hand in a report every year and had their mid-term evaluation two years ago and are going to be evaluated after this academic year is over. We do not totally agree with their evaluation framework content, but this is the obligation to receive the government's grant. We would like to learn from what we think should accept and incorporate the parts into our future activities. Also, we will let the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science know the results of our "voluntary" external evaluation at the time of final evaluation.
What we regard important is achievements made by researchers and non-academic people. Most of the achievements have been published and everyone in Japan purchase them at bookstores or borrow them at the library. Some of them have earned high evaluation and had book reviews in newspapers etc. or one of them earned a prize in nonfiction section (this prize is given just one or two books every year)
And all of our publishments can be provide readers with digital data. At the same time many of our papers and materials are open to public via our website although most of them are written in Japanese. As responded in question 8, we believe that that many people read papers or materials show the evaluation to our activities. Moreover, we also make a database of fliers and club bulletins of various organizations that many people do not know or tend to forget and make them open to public. Also we put books and club bulletins on the shelves and make their database at the same time so that visitors can understand where they are. Those are very precious for people who are interested in and some people come to visit us from a long distance.
Concerning Reports Issued by Research Center for Ars Vivendi (http://www.arsvi.com/a/rrca-e.htm), they are free of charge. Especially, Techniques of Support for Students with Visual Disabilities
(http://www.arsvi.com/b2000/0902as-e.htm & http://www.arsvi.com/b2010/1003as-e.htm)
including Enlarged and Revised Edition we already distributed 3,000 copies. This is remarkable as a research report.
Our activities have become well-known to researchers in the area of human and social sciences. Our members have had presentations at the Japan Society of Disability Studies etc. and we have co operated the annual convention of Japan Society of Disability Studies twice here in Ritsumeikan University. Moreover, the annual convention of Japan Association for Bioethics in academic year 2012 is held here. Although we have criticized the mainstream of bioethics it is recognized and decided. The program's leader, Professor Tateiwa, will be a representative of the annual convention.
[Q] What plans regarding a/ education, b/ research and c/ knowledge transfer, are in place to ensure Ars Vivendi’s future momentum as a national and inter-disciplinary hub of educational and research excellence?
[A] As for a) education, our graduate school has accepted people who are not satisfied with existing education / graduate school education from the nationwide. We believe the trend will not change. Our graduate school also accepts many newcomers as researchers. However, many of them have strong passion to conduct research from their own experiences and present their research achievements. It takes a lot of manpower to make those students' feeling into their papers. However, we think such feelings are important and make the framework for research support and make every effort to improve it. We will keep having the framework and developing it.
As for b) research, we felt keenly that what should be done has not been done in many ways. Those things have not been focused in research from the side of the professional / supplier. We think research activities to bridge such lack is necessary although each activity is nothing special. We would like to accumulate research taking our time.
As for c) Knowledge tranfer, we keep publishing achievements we mentioned in question 10, information transmission via website, and publishing Journal Ars Vivendi which people can purchase at bookstores etc. Moreover, we keep utilizing e-mail newsletters (Japanese/English/Korean）and twitter. What we think important from the beginning is information transmission to foreign countries. However, we have not made enough achievements for this. This academic year, we have inaugurated to publish an online journal, Ars Vivendi Journal (http://www.arsvi.com/m/av-e.htm).
Also, both English pages and Korean pages of our website (http://www.arsvi.com/a/index.htm) have been increasing to certain extent. How it is just a part of what we should do. We think enriching those contents are most important issue for us. Examining facts that have already been known within Japan deeply and then report their achievements, and explaining facts that have not been known to foreign people explaining differences of culture and thoughts are not the same thing. We need to do both. Although it is difficult and it takes time (about 10 years or so??) to enrich the contents, we will make every efforts to enrich them as soon as possible by arranging the (support) system of research and transmission.
[Q] Do you envisage any foreseeable difficulties in maintaining further development?
[A] As we mentioned in question 2, the Global COE Program will end as of this academic year. Since this was not planned in the beginning, we opposed this movement, but this was already decided. Acquiring stable budget is the problem we have to solve, but it is very difficult to solve it. After having your evaluation, we aim to acquire outside grant with the support of the university.
We need certain amount of money in order to keep the information transmission system continuously. Unless we acquire the amount of budget, there are possibilities that this activity might slow down although it is just starting to take off.