On February 23, the Research Organization and Open Innovation and Collaboration staged an international conference at Ritsumeikan University Osaka Ibaraki Campus to mark the inauguration of the Ritsumeikan Asia-Japan Research Organization. The conference was attended by professors in Asian studies from leading universities. The conference was held as part of the Asia-Japan Research Development Project launched by Ritsumeikan University.
In Session 1, Professor Miyazaki, Director of the Mario Einaudi Center at Cornell University, gave a presentation on research work at the center. The Mario Einaudi Center, founded in 1961, is internationally renowned for its historic area studies programs. About half of its funding comes from the university’s central budget, which demonstrates the university’s deep commitment to international studies. He touched upon the recent trend toward ‘inward-looking societies’ in many countries and emphasized the importance of turning our gaze outward. He also expressed his hopes for collaboration between Cornell and Ritsumeikan University in the field of Asian studies.
Next, Professor Riles of Cornell University gave a passionate presentation on Meridian 180, a multilingual platform for policy solutions and experimentation. It was founded six years ago in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Another crisis is likely to occur on a similar scale soon, be it an environmental crisis, a financial crisis, a trade war, or a military crisis. Meridian 180 aims to respond to these crises by presenting new ways of engaging more than 800 leading thinkers and experts to boost new collaborations across disciplines. “The role of a global university is to take on these challenges because no other institutions or societies can do that,” she added.
Professor Veronica Taylor from the Australian National University (ANU) gave the final presentation in Session 1. ANU and Ritsumeikan University are currently working toward setting up a double undergraduate degree program. ANU was founded in 1946 as a national research university to study the Asia-Pacific. Today, more than 40% of its academic staff come from overseas, and ANU was ranked as the seventh most international university in the world in 2017. One of its most distinctive outputs is the ANU Update, which is a one- or two-day conference held annually on a country-by-country basis, such as ANU China Update, or Japan Update. In closing, she remarked that universities are being challenged to walk a line between policy salience (relevance for the government) and academic integrity.
In Session 2, four distinguished members of the Ritsumeikan faculty presented their research findings. Professor Nakagawa, Director of the Research Centre for Palaeoclimatology, gave a presentation on climatic regime shift. He explained that we might face an abrupt change in temperature by the end of this century. However, such a change was considered relatively “gradual” from a geological perspective, because there was a big difference in timescale between geological climate change and contemporary climate change. As human history shows, today’s stable climate will not last forever. He therefore insisted on the importance of respecting diversity and putting our heads together to find solutions. And indeed this was the theme of the conference.
Following the presentation by Professor Nakagawa, Professor Oda, Professor Chikamoto, and Professor Yamazaki gave presentations on their respective research topics.
Thanks to the wonderful presentations and some lively interactions during the Q&A sessions and panel discussions, the conference was a great success.