Data on current and past personnel appear in Table 3.1. Of the past 919 researchers (aggregate) who have participated in ERATO, 368 (about 40%) came from industry. Most of these researchers are sent from companies to join ERATO as "the delegated researchers." They do not resign from their companies, and they can return to those companies after finishing their research on the ERATO project. These assignments typically are one to three years in duration.

Table 3.1: ERATO Researchers
As of 8/1/95
*Aggregate = Current + Former

Of researchers currently involved in ERATO projects, 140 (53%) are independent, as compared to only 359 (39%) throughout the thirteen-year course of the program. JRDC explains this by pointing to the fact that, unlike earlier projects, current projects are focusing on more "basic" research topics so there is less industry participation.

According to JRDC, the larger number of independents include post-doctors, researchers who have returned to Japan from abroad, and researchers who have resigned positions at universities and companies. Researchers who are employed on full-time contracts with ERATO cannot hold posts in other organizations concurrently. When asked during recruitment why they wish to join ERATO, these researchers give such responses as "there is more intellectual freedom" or "ERATO gives me a chance to do things I'm not presently able to do at the university."

The average age of ERATO research team members, excluding project directors, is about 31. A little more than 18% of the staff are technicians; the rest are researchers. About 40% of the researchers have doctorates. These are generally postdoctoral scientists with fewer than five years' research experience. The personnel who are borrowed from industry tend to have master's degrees, with some intending to obtain doctorates, based on their ERATO work.

Very few ERATO researchers are on loan from universities. Likewise, there are very few university graduate students working on ERATO projects. This is most likely due to the inflexibility of the university system and to rivalry between the STA and the Ministry of Culture and Education (Monbusho). Whatever the reason, the ERATO program may be missing a major opportunity to impact the next generation of researchers by not involving more students in its projects.

Securing a researcher position in ERATO is very competitive. This is because there is a clear perception of its good points, i.e., higher pay, more intellectual freedom, and better project funding. Researchers are extensively recruited through public advertisements, including use of the Internet. Those who desire to join ERATO are directly and intensively interviewed by the project director. In the screening processes, project directors consider applicants' future research plans, as well as their past achievements, career backgrounds, and academic records. Attention is given to ensuring that the researchers are as heterogeneous as possible, because there is a strong likelihood that new ideas will emerge from the interaction among people with different values and perspectives.

Very few ERATO researchers and no project directors have been women. ERATO project directors attributed this to the very small applicant pool. This observation indicates that there are still very limited opportunities in Japan for women in science. In keeping with its vision as a "social experimenter," ERATO may, in the future, choose to recruit more women scientists and have at least one female project director.

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Published: September 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian