This JTEC study was formally initiated by a request in a letter from Paul Herer to Mr. Genya Chiba of the JRDC. Mr. Chiba is a Vice President of JRDC, and the person most responsible for developing ERATO and overseeing it over the past fifteen years. The letter sought permission to visit JRDC and to study the impact the ERATO program has had on the Japanese technical community. Chiba replied enthusiastically, and plans began to be made to form the panel and set up a schedule for the planned trip and associated meetings. The kick-off meeting occurred on July 17, 1995, in Washington. At this meeting the scope of the study was discussed, and a strategy was delineated for carrying it out. Unlike other JTEC studies, where a certain technical area has been covered, this study examined the effects of both the science and the program, covering a very wide swath of technical and sociological topics.

JRDC has sponsored forty-five ERATO projects since its inception. These projects fall into two general technical categories: biosciences and physical sciences. A complete list of current and past projects, including brief project descriptions, is included in Appendix B. Twenty-one projects have been completed, some as early as 1986, so the panel's strategy was to sample a number of projects from each scientific area, choosing from among the following categories as well: those completed some time ago, some that are nearly complete or are just being completed, and some that are in the process of being formed. This panel chose not to speak with anyone from the newest 1995-2000 group since they were in the very earliest stages. The panel also chose a geographical range for its sample, visiting projects in Tokyo as well as outside the capital, and one offshore in the United States.

Although the JTEC panel hoped to sample almost all the projects, it was able only to make contact with people associated with about half of them due to time limitations. Table 1.1 lists JRDC, ERATO, and PRESTO people that this panel interviewed, including information on their project affiliations. By choosing to sample a few projects from each category, the panel felt it could best examine the changes that are taking place within ERATO and within the Japanese scientific community, assess the effect ERATO has had on the scientific and technical fields, and try to follow the career paths of those involved. To accomplish all these tasks, we divided the panel into two teams, maintaining an interdisciplinary mix to make sure that each team covered all perspectives. To evaluate the biosciences projects, Bentley, Young, and on occasion Lee and Herer made on-site visits and interviewed researchers. Gamota, Rowell, and Kahaner evaluated the physical science projects.

Table 1.1
Persons Interviewed by the JTEC ERATO Panel

Source: A. Engel, JRDC

To help manage the logistics of covering such a large number of projects and people who are geographically dispersed throughout Japan, the panel was fortunate to have had assistance and support from the JRDC and ERATO project offices. Without their help, this effort would have taken far more time, and the sample would have been far less representative than it was. For ongoing projects, the panel visited the laboratories; for completed projects, it interviewed past directors or researchers and representatives from a sample of Japanese companies who had had direct contact with the projects; and for projects nearing completion, it was fortunate to have its visit coincide with final symposia being held for the Shinkai Chemirecognics and the Kimura Metamelt projects. Most of the panel members also had an opportunity to visit some of the PRESTO researchers briefly; Dr. Kusuda spent a whole week visiting these researchers and their laboratories.

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Published: September 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian