In 2007, the Japanese government launched the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) program to build “globally visible” research centers within Japan and established five centers across the country. Last month, the WPI Program Committee examined each center carefully, and concluded that all centers had met the goal of the WPI program and declared each “World Premier Status” for the significant achievements they have made. Among the five centers, Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe has been nominated for a 5-year extension, as a “highly exceptional case whose achievements are far beyond the very high WPI standard”.
The review was conducted by the WPI Program Committee, an international committee appointed by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and Japanese Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS). The individual working groups conducted annual site visits to each center and reported to the Program Committee. The Program Committee made an overall evaluation based on these reports and written reports submitted by each center. The final result was announced on the MEXT and JSPS websites.
The Committee reviewed performance of each center on four criteria:
- Advancing top-quality science
- Achieving internationalization
- Making breakthroughs by fusion studies
- Reforming research and administration systems
The implementation period of WPI projects is 10 years with a possible 5-year extension if a project achieves outstanding results.
In response to the review result, Hitoshi Murayama, founding Director of Kavli IPMU, said, “The Committee evaluated that the WPI program was a great success. I believe that the five WPI centers launched in 2007 became the first examples of research institutes in Japan where researchers from around the world were attracted to Japan, and were confident coming here would help with their career. In fact, approximately 40 % of the researchers at the WPI centers come from overseas. It is an amazing achievement that five centers with only eight years of history were judged and given “world premier status” by a Program Committee with an international composition. The review result is a testament to the tremendous effort made by all the WPI centers. Japan can showcase world-class science using the WPI centers.”
Murayama also added, “Kavli IPMU started from scratch and could well have disappeared from the map. Now it will stay on the map of world-class research institutions. Being in a position to have recruited so many talented scientists, I feel so relieved to hear the result on the extension. We at Kavli IPMU will strive further, making sure that the WPI program will continue to shine within the international community.”
President Junichi Hamada of the University of Tokyo made a commitment to provide resources to Kavli IPMU on a permanent basis if it received the extension as well as the highest mark. President Hamada remarked, “The fact that all five initial WPI centers, including our Kavli IPMU, were judged to have attained the world premier status has raised academic research in Japan to an entirely new level. Kavli IPMU has spearheaded many important system reforms as a flagship institute of the University. From this point on, Kavli IPMU will bear a bigger responsibility to continue its leadership role. I am committed to support Kavli IPMU to help take Japanese academia to the next level.”
President Hamada oversaw a major reorganization at the University to create “Todai Institutes for Advanced Study (TODIAS)”, an organizational structure that could house Kavli IPMU. Prof. Yoichiro Matsumoto, Vice President for Research at the University of Tokyo, is currently overseeing TODIAS. He commented, “It is a tremendous boost to TODIAS that Kavli IPMU, together with the other four WPI centers, is now declared to be world class. It has clearly raised the international visibility of our research output. We in the administration will continue to work on raising the competitiveness of the University globally.”
Kavli IPMU presented its future vision for the five-year extension, which the Committee has called compelling. It proposes the SuMIRe (Subaru Measurement of Images and Redshifts) project to study the future of the Universe into a trillion years using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii, as well as the LiteBIRD (Light satellite for the studies of B-mode polarization and Inflation from cosmic Background microwave Radiation Detection) project that can probe the Universe before the Big Bang when the whole Universe we see today was much smaller than the size of an atomic nucleus. In addition, Kavli IPMU envisions itself to embrace research in statistics, as well as to create a new graduate program.
The External Advisory Committee, chaired by Prof. Steven Kahn from Stanford University, reviewed the achievements and future plans of Kavli IPMU in July 2014. They found “In the relatively short time since its founding in 2007, the institute has firmly established itself as a world-leading center at the interface of three major fields of research: physics, astronomy, and mathematics. Each of these fields has its own unique culture, but the Kavli IPMU has successfully blended those cultures to lead to new insights and interactions that would not have occurred without it. The quality of the research has been of uniformly high quality, as judged by the usual standards of the field: numbers of publications in leading journals, numbers of citations, etc. In addition, the institute has given birth to several world-class experimental projects in cosmology and astroparticle physics that are just now coming on line.”
The WPI program itself received a praise from the External Advisory Committee, “The WPI program, and the Kavli IPMU in particular, have also been very influential in leading the way toward organizational reform of Japanese higher education. Key innovations include the establishment of full faculty positions with non-traditional tenure, the introduction of a merit-based salary system, a flexible approach to management, the use of split faculty appointments, the ‘nenpo’ system, and support for non-Japanese members.”
The WPI program was established by MEXT in 2007. Its purpose is to “build within Japan ‘globally visible’ research centers that boast a very high research standard and outstanding research environment, sufficiently attractive to prompt frontline researchers from around the world to want to work in them.” The Committee’s report says the five centers have attained this goal. The remaining four centers established after 2007 were not subject to the same review this year.
About Kavli IPMU
Kavli IPMU is an international research institute with English as its official language. The goal of the institute is to discover the fundamental laws of nature and to understand the Universe from the synergistic perspectives of mathematics, astronomy, and theoretical and experimental physics. The Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU) was established in October 2007 under the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) of the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan with the University of Tokyo as the host institution. IPMU was designated as the first research institute within Todai Institutes for Advanced Study (TODIAS) in January 2011. It received an endowment from The Kavli Foundation and was renamed the “Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe” in April 2012. Kavli IPMU is located on the Kashiwa campus of the University of Tokyo, and more than half of its full-time scientific members come from outside Japan.