National Institute of Genetics Center for Frontier Research

Outline and Characteristics

Outline

Center for Frontier Research is an incubation center to simultaneously develop two elements: human resources and new research fields. Promising young scientists conduct research as principal investigator (tenure-track associate professor) to explore new frontiers in genetics and related areas, taking advantage of NIG’s research infrastructure and various support systems.

Those who obtained tenure will establish new research divisions in NIG to lead the new fields that they contribute in creating.

Selection process

Tenure-track faculty at the Center for Frontier Research (CFR) are expected to develop original research programs in life sciences as principal investigators. We seek investigators employing creative approaches and defining novel research areas.

Selection is done in two steps. Rather than screening based on past research achievements (publication list and grant records), the initial selection puts weight on the directionality and significance of the research proposal and feasibility of the innovative approach that applicants are taking. Shortlisted candidates will then be invited to NIG for two days. The first day is a symposium where all invited speakers present their current research and future directions, accompanied with active questions and discussions. On the second day each faculty candidate visits several laboratories and/or facilities of their choice, and also have an interview with the search committee, which includes non-NIG members. In this interview one can introduce and discuss research plans that could not be fully elaborated during the open symposium. Such ample opportunity to discuss with candidates contributes to selecting those who are tackling challenging projects with a frontier spirit.

Research environment

CFR provides an environment that tenure-track faculty can focus on and further develop their research projects. During the tenure-track period of 5 years each faculty is provided with a total of 36 million JPY of research funds as well as positions for a postdoctoral fellow and a technician. Two NIG professors serve as mentors through scientific discussion and advising on lab management. Annual review, conducted by the CFR steering committee (which includes three outside faculty), is aimed at providing advice, rather than conducting evaluation, and is an excellent opportunity to receive advice toward tenure. Inter-laboratory activities, such as joint journal clubs and lab meetings can be used to expand the research scope of the laboratory through collaboration.

Tenure evaluation

The mechanism and objectives of the tenure-track system at NIG are tightly linked to the mission of NIG: to expand the scope of genetics, and to nurture scientists of the next generation who can build new frontiers of life sciences. The tenure evaluation is based on the candidate’s potential to lead a new research field, as detailed below:

  1. The candidate has obtained excellent results that can lead to the creation of a new field.
  2. The candidate demonstrates outstanding ability to act as a driving force for the promotion of the field.

Using these criteria that emphasize scientific creativity, we wish to promote those who are tackling a challenging project with a vision for a new direction of research. These criteria could be fulfilled by a discovery of a new phenomenon, concept, technique, or molecule that foreshadows a new research field, followed by a demonstration of the path to the establishment of such a field. New developments in an existing field could be considered as “leading to the creation of a new field” if they represent a breakthrough that could produce a quantum leap in that field.

Tenure evaluation is absolute assessment; faculty search for tenure-track position is conducted after securing the equal number of tenured positions. Since the establishment of the tenure-track system in 2009, five tenure-track faculty have applied for tenure decision and all have been awarded tenure (as of May 2016).