RIKEN is Japan's premier scientific research institute with a globally recognized standard of comprehensive scope. RIKEN is working to enhance confidence in Japan, tackling challenges that humanity faces, and contributing to sustainable development and the development of human society.
To ensure excellence in RIKEN’s research and activities, we have proposed new plans for supporting research careers based on the RIKEN’s Vision on the 2030 Horizon. The aim is to enable the best research minds - from Japan of course, together with the best investigative minds everywhere - to gather and work together and train the next generation of eminent researchers and engineers, instilling in them the aptitude and skills necessary to meet tomorrow's challenges, making RIKEN an ever better setting for sharing exciting new ideas. Today, RIKEN is taking new measures as described below to maximally stimulate and sustain particularly the strength of junior researchers, based on this plan.
Building organizational structures that maximally stimulate and sustain junior and senior researchers’ strengths
RIKEN will review the salary system for researchers and make efforts to ensure that the salary system for researchers can be flexible based on evaluation. RIKEN aims to become an internationally appealing institution with the ability to recruit excellent young researchers from both Japan and overseas, and to provide them with the support necessary to become people who will take charge of the science of the future.
In order to ensure continuous advancement in basic sciences research, the most fundamental consideration is to train young researchers to take on this task. RIKEN has consistently fostered researchers’ careers at all levels, whether they be undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, or young principal investigators. RIKEN Hakubi Fellows Program for young principal investigators is part of RIKEN’s “brains without borders” support for international exchange among exceptionally talented individuals, whether Japanese or of other nationalities. We are further upgrading this program to make it a key artery for global exchange in research talent and ideas. We are also making efforts to provide an environment that will allow researchers to focus on research activities by strengthening financial support for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
1) RIKEN Early Career Leaders Program (RIKEN ECL Program) for supporting young PIs
To increase our capability to attract outstanding young researchers in an environment of intense competition in research and development, we will develop the current RIKEN Hakubi Fellows Program into the RIKEN ECL Program, which will offer support to researchers at the two career stages listed below. Open calls for appointments for FY2024 will begin in April FY2023. *Both those with a rank equivalent to Division Director and Section Manager will be provided the opportunity to undergo a screening for an unlimited-term position. Further, when employees are transferred to other institutions via this program, RIKEN will provide support for the continuation and development of their research.
i)RIKEN Early Career Team Leader (equivalent to rank of Division Director): This program will offer opportunities for young researchers who are highly motivated to establish independent laboratories to carry out ambitious research projects with high scientific or social impacts. Start-up expenses and support for research over a seven-year period will be provided. The program will be renewed into one that deepens and strengthens RIKEN Hakubi Fellows Program which focuses on enhancing career paths. Every year, there will be opportunities for employing three leaders including two RIKEN Early Career Team Leaders of any gender and one RIKEN Early Career Team Leader: Sechi Kato Program specifically for female researchers in order to promote diversity. The Sechi Kato Program has expanded the amount of laboratory start-up expenses designed to promote the recruitment of excellent female researchers. The laboratory term will be seven years and its start-up expenses and support for research over a seven-year period will be provided. In principle, no fixed standard amount will be set for start-up expenses and a sufficient amount will be provided to ensure maximum performance for seven years, depending on the content of the research proposal and characteristics of its field.
ii)RIKEN Early Career Unit Leader (equivalent to rank of Section Manager): This program will offer opportunities for outstanding young researchers to establish independent laboratories to take on the challenge of carrying out unique and ambitious research projects. Specifically, the program seeks to promote junior and talented researchers mainly targeting junior researchers who have recently obtained their doctoral degrees. Employment opportunity equivalent to the rank of Section Manager and the opportunity to work in a flexible environment leading a laboratory hosted by one of the research centers or other RIKEN organization will be provided. Every year, the program will seek to recruit two male and two female unit leaders. The laboratory term will be five years and start-up expenses and support for research over a five-year period will be provided. Adopting the same conditions for the RIKEN Early Career Team Leaders (equivalent to rank of Division Director), no fixed standard amount will be set for start-up expenses and a sufficient amount will be provided to ensure maximum performance for five years, fully taking into account of the content of the research proposal and characteristics of its field.
*The RIKEN ECL Program’s target ages and number of laboratory staff that are currently under consideration are as follows.
(The ages are approximate and depend on number of years of experience, etc.)
Team Leader-- Average age: about 35 years old/ staff number: about five
Unit Leader-- Average age: about 30 years old/ staff number: about two
2) Improvement of salary/benefits for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers
Starting from FY2023, we will offer improved salaries/benefits for Special Postdoctoral Researchers who are young researchers that have obtained their doctoral degrees during the past five years, and Junior Research Associates who are graduate students in the latter term of their doctoral program aiming for expanded support. In addition, we will increase research expenses for Special Postdoctoral Researchers and support for expenses to attend international conferences for Junior Research Associates. The program aims to provide a better and more fulfilling environment that will allow graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to focus on their research by implementing these measures.
This article was first published on 26 January by RIKEN.