Executive Director’s Message

A groundbreaking achievement benefitting the active participation of talented early-career researchers

Junji Yamaguchi
Executive, Vice President,
Executive Director of Front
Office for Human Resource
Education and Development,
Hokkaido University

At Hokkaido University, we built the foundation of a tenure-track system through 5 years of activities with support from the Hokkaido University Basic and Interdisciplinary Sciences Leader Development System (a project supporting the creation of independent research environments for early-career researchers) (2007–2011), a project subsidized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Under our subsequent Tenure-Track Promotion Program (2011–2019), we endeavored to promote and establish a university-wide tenure-track system with the introduction of diversity-oriented tenure-track recruitment, such as the targeted recruitment of female researchers, as well as a departmental tenure-track certification system.

Through the activities of the Tenure-Track Project over the past 14 years, the University has gained three major assets. The first of these is the active participation of talented early-career researchers. The University’s international tenure-track recruitment has received applications from many researchers from Japan and overseas and has trained and supported tenure-track faculty members recruited after overcoming various hardships to place them in tenured positions. After arriving in their departmental posts as tenured faculty, as well as producing results in research and education, these early-career researchers play an important role and are widely involved in the activities of their home departments. The second is the interaction of early-career researchers across departmental affiliations and fields of research. From an early stage, the University has focused on cross-departmental activities that capitalize on the advantages of a tenure-track system that is standardized at the university level. This has stimulated cross-departmental exchanges centered on tenure-track faculty members who were recruited at the same time, which has in turn prompted a trend toward the development of joint research and other forms of interdisciplinary study. The third is a contribution to the internationalization of the University. Tenure-track faculty members hired at the University, in addition to having a high proportion of foreign researchers, include many Japanese researchers who have spent at least 6 months overseas. These individuals play a major role in reaching agreements and conducting international joint studies with overseas universities and as bridge-builders for cross-cultural exchange.

As the challenges facing the higher education sector continue to mount, it is essential that we adopt a long-term perspective in the steady furtherance of our research personnel training efforts. In anticipation of celebrating the important milestone of the 150th anniversary of its foundation in 2026, the University has compiled Future Strategy for the 150th Anniversary of Hokkaido University (Future Strategy 150). In this regard, “to foster and support early-career researchers who will play a leading role in the next generation” has been positioned as a core component of this plan, and we are working “to expand tenure-track systems in each field to facilitate the early development of early-career researchers.” As a part of the Third Mid-Term Plan (2016–2021), in keeping with Future Strategy 150, we have furthered the development of the tenure-track system that the University has cultivated thus far in order to strengthen the University’s research capability. In future, our plan is to make further use of the tenure-track system as one of the pillars of the University’s project to develop early-career research personnel in the context of the Fourth Mid-Term Plan (2022–2027), as well. I look forward to the continued support and cooperation of our partners both inside the University and beyond.

Message from the Project Director

Achieving the sustained development of the University through the active participation

Makoto Demura
Director of the Program
Front Office for Human
Resource Education and
Development, Hokkaido
University (Professor,
Faculty of Advanced
Life Science)

For Hokkaido University to recognize its social responsibility and achieve sustainable development, the youngest of our teaching staff will have to play active roles in the university’s future operation. In order to attract a flow of competent early-career researchers both from Japan and overseas, Hokkaido University has promoted the tenure-track system in an effort to spread it across the university. Reflecting the fact that many Nobel laureates have won the prize because of research results obtained in their thirties, the tenure-track system at Hokkaido University encourages researchers in that age range by providing them with strong support and an ideal environment in which to concentrate on their research activities.

The tenure-track system at Hokkaido University expects tenure-track teachers not only to be at the top of their own research fields, but also to contribute to helping the university as a whole reach the world’s top level. For this purpose, the system also emphasizes leader development support. One such measure is the “Proposal to the President,” in which tenure-track researchers make a presentation to the president of the university on global issues such as research systems in overseas countries and prospective targets of future research. The system also provides them with opportunities for various outreach activities, including high school and public lectures. Through these activities, we expect those researchers who have promoted to tenured positions to become leaders—first in their respective departments and then in the university overall—and to take a key role in management.

Tenure-track researchers in practice at Hokkaido University voluntarily organize tenure-track member exchange seminars, where they hold series of discussions about each other’s research. Through these discussions, new seeds of collaborative research have been discovered, some of which have already developed into transdisciplinary collaborative efforts. As seen in these examples, the tenure-track system seeks researchers who do not confine themselves within the boundaries of their specialized research fields, but who actively connect with researchers in different fields and cooperate with other people while also demonstrating strong leadership. It is therefore our strong desire to create a future for Hokkaido University in which these passionate researchers can rise to the challenge of its leadership.