In November 2016, the German funding agency German Research Foundation (DFG), with its permanent representation office in Tokyo, organised a tour where German schemes such as the Humboldt research fellowship and European programmes such as the MSCA or ERC were presented to selected researchers who then underwent one on one consultation session with the speakers to further answer their questions and help them in building a successful proposal.
A few months after this tour, we interviewed a few of the researchers who participated.
Wishing you a good read!
- Can you introduce yourself and your research topic quickly?
Hiroki: I am a Ph.D candidate in the process of graduating by the end of March 2017. My current research topic focuses on understanding the neural substrates of the visual form processing of the Japanese Kanji characters, and the way this visual processing system is impaired in people with developmental dyslexia.
Sachiko: I am a dentist working as academic staff at university. I would like to study and research in Europe and broaden my perspectives. My research interest is oral health and its relationship with general health; more specifically, I have been investigating salivary proteins and its relationship with general health.
Yu: I am a PhD candidate in my second year, at Yokohama National University. My research topic is about how to build a national Long Term Care Insurance system in China since we don’t have one yet.
Taiga: I am currently a second-year Doctoral student of Kumamoto University. My research interests include pulse power technology and its application to sterilization of liquid.
- Why are you interested in a PhD or Postdoc in Germany or in Europe?
Hiroki: In comparison with European researchers, only a few researchers in Japan are devoted to uncovering the neural substrates of developmental dyslexia. Moreover, several European laboratories interested in research on dyslexia collaborate with other laboratories that develop cutting-edge neuro-imaging techniques. This may give me the opportunity to develop a broad scientific network and to advance my research technical skills. Additionally, I find it a good opportunity to be able to compare the neural substrates of dyslexia between people in Japan and Europe, which will enable us to better understand the biological underpinnings of developmental dyslexia.
Sachiko: First of all, there are many interesting papers published by European researchers in the field of health sciences. Secondly, both the German government and the EU seem to offer abundant opportunities for overseas researchers. For these reasons, I would like to perform a research stay in Europe to cultivate my career.
Yu: I am interested in Public Long Term Care Insurance system in Germany. Since Japan and Germany are representatives of Public Long Term Care Insurance system, while China has determined to build a Public rather than private Long Term Care Insurance system, I really want to study the system in Germany comparing it with Japan and finally, hope to reach a good solution from a law-making perspective.
Taiga: I am interested in Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany, because they also perform research on sterilization of liquids. Therefore, I think if I can learn much from a study or research stay at KIT.
- You participated last November in the individual consultation sessions within the Japan tour organised by the DFG in Tsukuba, Yokohama, Fukuoka and Osaka, to which EURAXESS participated too. What is it you wished to learn there and were you able to obtain relevant information for your career?
Hiroki: I wanted to identify outstanding research opportunities in Europe. Indeed, I successfully found some resources presented during the tour that are applicable for me. Moreover, I acquired useful methods to search for postdoctoral positions in Europe.
Sachiko: All the staff I was able to consult were devoted and gave me sincere advice which are relevant to improve my career.
Yu: I wished to learn more about the programs offered to go to Europe and whether there would be a chance for me to join in during my PhD. I obtained relevant information about how I can go to Europe, and about the different application procedures. However, among the presented schemes, there was no suitable programme for my immediate needs; I think I will rather seek chances for postdoctoral stays after I get my PhD degree.
Taiga: I initially just wanted to know about the different programmes and application procedures, but I learned many other interesting things as well that will be useful to my future career.
- What is your mobility project now, do you intend to apply to schemes/programmes that were presented during the tour?
Hiroki: I have not applied to any of the programs so far, since I intend to remain in Japan for another year in order to complete my ongoing research project. Nevertheless, I am planning to get in touch with a researcher I am acquainted with and who is based in Europe, once I start considering programmes that fit with my research interests for the next stage of my career.
Sachiko: I will probably apply to one of the programmes that were presented and on which I received advice (DFG programmes, Humboldt Foundation, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, ERC).
Yu: My mobility project now is to apply to programmess that can support my move to Germany after I get my PhD degree; among these some of the programmes presented during the tour might be interesting.
- Last question: what do you think about the current state of research in Japan with regards to internationalisation and global mindedness?
Hiroki: I have the impression that the researchers who want to develop their career in foreign countries are limited in Japan. This may be due to the high quality of research in Japan, the advanced research infrastructure, and the availability of information on the internet. The motivation to do research abroad was mainly to “learn” from foreign countries; however, this is not necessary any longer in developed countries. Nonetheless, I feel that advancing my scientific career in foreign countries is still meaningful, given that interacting with researchers from other cultures will enable me to broaden my scientific network and to advance my research.
Sachiko: Japanese government has been trying to support academic staff mobility, to study and research abroad. Unfortunately, chances have been decreasing as the government interest is now shifting to support for students.
Taiga: I feel that unfortunately, the Japanese government does not support enough the international mobility of researchers; especially that of doctoral students.
Thank you all for your input to this interview, and all the best for your upcoming career!