Design of University Internal Fund for Activities Addressing Local Issues: Case from Local University in Japan
Nowadays, the ‘third mission' of universities is gaining attention (Gulbrandsen and Slipersaeter, 2007; Zomer and Benneworth, 2011). Activities for the mission include, in addition to joint researches with corporations and university-launched businesses, various activities that directly contribute to regional communities.
However, the previous studies identified some issues in such activities. For example, increased work burdens in dealing with individual issues as needed, the requirement of efforts concentrically loaded on a specific faculty member, and a mismatch found between the activities and the researchers' achievements and their evaluation. So sufficient understanding in the researchers' community and its active participation may not be realized yet (Lam, 2011). Meanwhile, a university in a region is positioned as an essential organization of the community and is therefore called an anchor institution (Harris and Holley, 2016). Many universities make organized efforts to take active roles in the region, aiming to contribute to the local economy (Bramwell and Wolfe, 2008). For sustainably promoting the activities in the future, it is expected to make efforts in harmony with local circumstances while paying attention to compliance with the code of conduct for researchers and alignment with the reality of research activities (Hussler et al., 2010).
While approaches to regional communities are strongly requested, not a small number of universities have faced a problem in that it is difficult for their conventional activity schemes to ensure sound researches and education in a sustainable way. Taking account of the present situation as described above, Tottori University set an objective in the third mid-term target period for national universities starting from the fiscal year 2016, which is "With the aim of establishing sustainable regional communities, the university utilizes its resources to provide solutions to regional issues as well as promotes regionally oriented education and researches". Further, in October 2017, an organization to pursue the objective called "Platform for Community-based Research and Education (CoRE)" was established. To promote research activities addressing regional issues, not only financial support but also human support including liaisons and team management are essential. In light of the above, this article introduces the system in the Tottori University to support researches on regional issues and its organization for operating the system.
2. Development of the organizational structure that supports researches on regional issues
CoRE consists of five offices, including the Office of Community-Based Research (CBR office) that is mainly involved in research support. After this, this article primarily focuses on the activities of the CBR office. To deal with research activities addressing regional issues, the CBR office defined the following missions.
I. Visualization and sharing of "regional needs"
II. Development of interdisciplinary research projects
III. Unique surveys and researches
3. The internal system of the university that supports efforts in addressing regional issues
Tottori University won a research grant from the special program for supporting regional contribution funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in the fiscal year 2002. On that occasion, the university started to manage its internal funds intended to support the efforts to resolve regional issues, under the name of "Regional Contribution Support Projects". Later, in the fiscal year 2013, with another MEXT grant from the Center of Community (COC) program for universities, the regional contribution support projects were expanded to include an additional support system supplementing them. Further, on the occasion of the establishment of CoRE in the fiscal year 2018, the systems were integrated with the program that supports educational activities dealing with regional issues and the internal system of the university that supports extension activities including extension lectures and outreach and reorganized as the "Community-based Research and Education (CoRE) Grant Program”. "Community-based Research Projects" are regarded as a successor of the "Regional Contribution Support Projects" in the program and divided into three types.
4. Future issues
Tottori University has supported more than 600 various projects, in total, addressing regional issues since the fiscal year 2002, contributing to the collaboration with regional communities.
However, activities addressing regional issues still face some problems. For example article on such activities is difficult to be recognized as an achievement because it tends not to be published in an academic journal, mainly European journal. Also, the resources applied to communication with those concerned, or residents, tend to be a burden to researchers moreover, that it is difficult to continue the activities after the end of the period covered by the university funds. Taking the above into consideration, the university plans to be more focused on the establishment of the support and evaluation systems that promote not only the implementation of the activities in the regional communities but also delivering the results as achievements in the academic field. Further, the university intends to enhance and improve its system to facilitate mutual understanding between the university and the community, including the understanding by the residents on the code of conduct for researchers. As a part of the plans, in the fiscal year 2018, the URA and coordinator mainly in charge of the collaboration with the community are to be established and assigned, and a database containing issues in the community and research/educational resources of the university is to be developed.