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Spring 2016 Commencement Ceremony Address 【March 24, 2017】


 Together with the SOKENDAI faculty members and administration officers here today, I am delighted to extend our warmest congratulations to a total 63 new doctors receiving degrees from SOKENDAI, including 58 katei-hakase and 5 ronbun-hakase degrees.


 No doubt you faced many hardships on the way to completing your doctoral dissertation. Rather than flinching from facing the difficulties, however, you persevered and overcame them. For that, you have earned my greatest respect. At the same time, I would also like to express my sincere thanks to the faculty who directly supervised your work and to the many other people in our research labs and administrative offices who also gave their assistance and support in so many ways. I would also like to extend my thanks and congratulations to the families who provided these students with ongoing material and emotional support.


 As you well know, SOKENDAI was founded in 1988 as Japan’s first graduate school with no undergraduate colleges. SOKENDAI provides a doctoral education that benefits fully from the excellent research and learning environments of its parent institutes, including the Inter-University Research Institutes, with their world-class personnel and infrastructure. A SOKENDAI education also transcends individual majors and departments in the form of custom-designed education as well as inter-departmental education. This makes SOKENDAI the sole graduate university in Japan capable of fulfilling its mission: nurturing leading researchers with both strong expertise and broad perspectives.


 Including today’s degree recipients, SOKENDAI has produced a total of 2197 doctorates, the majority of which are active in research or research-related jobs in Japan and overseas. With your degree from SOKENDAI, you have earned proof that you now stand ready to launch a career as a full-fledged researcher or research-related worker. My hope is that you will spread your wings far and wide in the world.


 In his 2016 book ‘Hito to bunmei: shuryo saishumin kara genzai o miru’ (‘Humans and Civilization: Contemporary Society From a Hunter-Gatherer’s Perspective’), the molecular anthropologist and Dr. Keiichi Omoto, former Senior Research Fellow of SOKENDAI, defines “humans” as “animals that possess culture and create civilization.” At the heart of our ability to create new cultures and civilizations is scientific research. This is why the work that all of you do in the future will be deeply intertwined with human societies. In contemporary society especially, the many products of scientific research have been transformed into material things that have made an important impact on people’s everyday lives and the Earth’s environment. Indeed much of human society today exists on the basis of our scientific knowledge. This is why research activities are by no means mere virtual games. Nowadays, researchers must recognize the relationship of scientific research to our human society and Mother Nature, and must have a sense of responsibility toward society and humanity as well as toward nature and even the universe. The preconditions of such responsibility are research ethics and a willingness to reflect four-dimensionally, including historically, upon the relationship between scientific research on the one hand and society and nature on the other.


 It goes without saying that researchers must outwardly publish their research findings in the form of articles and/or books, even at the cost of backbreaking struggles. Why? This process is significant in three ways. First, your responsibility to yourself. Publication is a way of taking personal responsibility for completing a certain body of research by summarizing it in the form of an article or a book. In most cases, even the finest work will remain incomplete if it remains unpublished. That is because the process of writing reveals things that are missing, as well as areas that need more work. Second, your responsibility to the research community. When you publish an article or a book, you are humbly asking other scholars to validate the accuracy of your findings and, moreover, inviting them to build upon your findings. By doing so you are meeting your obligations to the research community. Third, your responsibility to taxpayers and citizens. Because much of the cost of research is supported through funding that includes taxes paid by citizens, publishing your research fulfills your responsibility to provide citizens with a report of your activities. A researcher’s responsibility to publish is the starting point and the minimum requirement of the researcher’s contribution to human society.


 Frequent citations and strong evaluations are an end result, not something to aim for from the beginning. However, it is good to know why certain types of articles and books are frequently cited or highly evaluated. First, it means the content of the work connects and spans different fields, and also inspires interest among researchers in multiple fields. Second, it means that the content is original, sets forth new ways of thinking, and inspires many researchers to verify them. Third, the best publications cause ripple effects in which new fields are cultivated. In sum, frequently cited articles and books possess three essential qualities: they are cross-disciplinary, innovative and pioneering.


 If you set out to write an article or a book, I hope you will take the trouble to make it a good one: a high-quality article or book which exhibits “objectivity,” “sophistication,” and “authenticity.” To write out such high-quality articles or books, you are called on to engage in serious debate with as many as possible of the people around you and other relevant persons. While this is true whether you are the single author or one of multiple authors, it is especially important to make this effort when you are a single author. It is also important to draw on these opinions to put your work through multiple edits. It has become technologically possible to create precise reproductions or duplications even of the most complex objects, and in our modern society where AI (artificial intelligences) write novels, “authenticity” seems likely to become more and more in demand. I feel that this “authenticity” is equivalent to what the German philosopher Walter Benjamin called in 1936 the Aura, that is the “sense” or “force” of an artwork which is not a reproduction but the real thing. The Aura of an article or book is crystallized of three researcher’s qualities, 1) curiosity/inquisitiveness, 2) passion/enthusiasm, and 3) persistence/endurance, which have been poured into the work, and appears only when the book or article is a product of your own individual drive.


 The future of science, which is to say the future foundations of culture and civilization in human society, will be created by each and every one of you. With a healthy mind and body, a firm identity as a researcher, and a strong sense of motivation, I sincerely hope you will go on to pursue active careers combining dedication and hard work.


 Congratulations on your graduation. Like you, I too will “graduate” from SOKENDAI at the end of March. From a different perspective I will remain engaged with science and I hope that I can still be of help to you, even if only indirectly. Thank you and good luck.


March 24, 2017

Yasunobu Okada, MD, Ph.D., President

Posted On 2017.03.24 By 総務課総務係
Shonan Village, Hayama, Kanagawa 240-0193 Japan