Chapter 3


Paul J. Herer


Established in 1981, the Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) program was one of several initiatives undertaken to counter criticism both at home and abroad that Japan was not contributing enough to the world's store of basic knowledge. ERATO's stated purpose is to foster "the creation of advanced technologies while stimulating future interdisciplinary scientific activities and searching for better systems by which to carry out basic research" (ERATO 1995a, 1). In many ways, ERATO is intended as a great social experiment which seeks to chart new ways of doing basic research and to breathe change into the rigid, bureaucratic structures which characterize many of Japan's formal research systems. Compared to many research systems worldwide, the ERATO model can be considered quite radical. Let's look at some of its most distinguishing features:

Perhaps the spirit of ERATO is best expressed by Genya Chiba, one of its founders and longtime director of the program. He sees basic research as an art form, perhaps most like the theater. Within the ERATO program JRDC acts as a producer in selecting innovative, scientifically-versed, key individuals -- directors -- each with an assortment of open-ended themes. These "motifs" are explored by heterogeneous teams of talented young sci-tech performers. The concept is that of an "individual-centered" research structure, where a highly capable project director is called upon to nurture and bring out the creative talents of these young researchers.

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Published: September 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian