With Japan a burgeoning hub for biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, genomics, and a multitude of other areas of cutting-edge science and technology, there are many benefits to be gained for UK researchers willing to train in Japan or collaborate with Japanese colleagues. Simultaneously, the last few decades have seen a rapid increase in the number of funding schemes encouraging British scientists to look eastwards. "Japan has been investing very heavily in the life sciences and we want British scientists to be able to capitalise on this," explains Liz Anderson of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
So do you feel up to the challenge? Below, Next Wave surveys the UK-Japan funding scene:
? The Royal Society began its Joint Partnership scheme in 1990 to fund subsistence and travel for members of two collaborating research groups over a 2-year period. The society provides funds up to £6000 a year for the UK group with matching sums for the Japanese team secured from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in Tokyo or another Japanese organisation. Around 15 awards are made each year.
Eligible research projects must be in the natural sciences, basic medicine, engineering, or history of science (social sciences and clinical medical projects are not eligible). "Research collaborations are selected based on their excellence and cutting-edge status," says Caroline Chipperfield of the Royal Society's International Exchanges Section. Applicants must be of postdoctoral level or higher, but once the group has secured funding, it's up to them how they spend it, so if you are a PhD student you may get to travel and benefit as part of the research group too.
? Similar in scope, but more generous in funding, the BBSRC's Japan Partnering Awards ( JPA) are meant to "pump-prime" long-term collaborations between research groups in Japan and BBSRC-funded scientists in the UK, says the council's Anderson. The awards, which began in 2001, offer up to £50,000 over a 3-year period. This money covers travel costs for investigators, subsistence costs, workshops and meetings in emerging fields, and other expenses incurred when first embarking on large-scale partnerships with one or more groups in Japan. Preference is given to collaborations where young postdoctoral researchers will most benefit.
? The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation supports five or so Anglo-Japanese research partnerships annually with the £10,000 to £15,000 Daiwa Adrian Prizes. Recent awards have funded research ranging from the formation of galaxies to the genetic basis of asthma. The foundation also offers funding for partnerships between institutes through the Daiwa Foundation Awards. These are made in several areas, including science and technology, with a specific theme being chosen annually for each. They are worth between £10,000 and £25,000, and last 1 year.
These programmes fund career development and cultural exchange for young researchers in both directions and may last from several months up to several years.
? The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowships for foreign researchers provide between 12 and 24 months of funding for research at a Japanese research institute. The scheme, administered by the Royal Society in London, gives preference to projects thought to be critical to the career development of exceptional young postdoctoral scientists.
N.B. This 2-year fellowship replaces the Royal Society's 2 + 2 Fellowship which previously covered an additional 2 years of funding on return to the UK.
? The British Council in Japan in partnership with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science also runs a number of schemes for young scientists to travel in both directions. The Research Experience Fellowships for Young Foreign Researchers and Research Experience for European Students schemes both allow young British scientists to get a taste of research either at a Japanese university or research company, respectively. The funds cover flights and subsistence over the 2 months or so of the placement. A total of 15 placements are awarded to MSc, PhD, and recently finished PhD students annually.
? The British Council/MEXT Visiting Professorship offers travel and salary for 3 months for more established UK scientists undertaking research and teaching commitments at Japanese universities.
? In addition, the British Council administrates the GlaxoSmithKline Scholarship . This is a single placement for a Japanese student to study life sciences in the UK for 2 years and offers total funding to the tune of about £16,000 (3 million yen).
? Finally, various Japanese companies provide fellowships or scholarships. However, according to the British Council's Kenneth Ho in Tokyo, "[many] do not recruit regularly and they mostly recruit researchers on a case-by-case basis." Contact the British Council in Japan for more details.
Travel and Other Small Grants
These grants mostly cover travel and subsistence costs incurred in the early stage of setting up a collaboration, or attending international conferences.
? The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's (EPSRC's) new INTERACT grants launched this year are aimed at strengthening research links in engineering and physical sciences between British groups and those in Japan, India, and China. The awards cover travel, subsistence, and the costs of setting up workshops and are meant to encourage the development of novel collaborations. Funds range from a few hundred pounds up to £30,000. Although the total fund available is just £50,000 this year, it is anticipated to rise to £250,000 in coming years. The scheme is open to all British physical scientists and engineers, and not just EPSRC grant holders.
? The Great Britain Saskawa Foundation in London provides small grants for travel and subsistence for both Japanese and British scientists to pump-prime research partnerships and encourage attendance at conferences. The average award is £1500 from a total annual pot of £350,000.
? In addition to its fellowships, the Royal Society also offers short-term study visit grants covering subsistence and travel expenses for periods between 10 days and 3 months.
? The British Council offers 10 small (£1000) Grants for Graduate Students --Japanese and British MSc and PhD students--to cover travel expenses for short-term attachments to research groups in the other country. Ten or so additional small Travel Grants are also awarded to PhD students exploring collaboration opportunities in either direction.
? The Daiwa foundation also offers Small Grants of £1000 to £5000 which cover travel expenses, conferences and symposia, educational exchanges, and more for researchers in both directions.
Fuller listings can be found at the British Council's Japan-based Web site and more resources on life in Japan are accessible from our Japan feature index page.