The Institute of Economic Research (IER) is an organization with a nearly 70-year history. It was established on April 1, 1940 as the Research Institute of East Asia Economies (Toa Keizai Kenkyusho in Japanese) of the Tokyo University of Commerce, and subsequently reorganized as the Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University in 1949. Established with the objective of conducting “comprehensive research on the Japanese economy and the world economy,” the IER has generated numerous outstanding research results. Notably, the IER has been playing a leading role in Japan through the development of outstanding databases on economics and society as well as advanced theoretical and empirical analyses and policy research directly connected to these data.
Currently, Hitotsubashi University is carrying out its Medium-term Plan (2016–21), which calls for three missions: (1) generating even higher levels of world-class research results to contribute to sustainable development of the global society; (2) establishing a solid foundation for research in the social sciences and to widely publish research output; and (3) promoting research on priority areas under the initiative of Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study (HIAS).
The IER is expected to play an important role in fulfilling these missions of the University. In accordance with this objective, the IER reorganized its research structure in 2015 into five sections: the Research Division of Theories in Economics and Statistics; the Research Division of Economic Measurement and Statistics; the Research Division of Comparative and World Economics; the Research Division of Economic Institutions and Policy; and the Research Division of Frontier Sciences in Economics. The IER also operates four affiliated facilities: the Research Centre for Information and Statistics of Social Science; the Center for Economic Institutions; the Center for Intergenerational Studies; and the Research Center for Economic and Social Risks.
The IER covers a wide variety of research fields. Among others, it traditionally has an advantage of generating empirical researches as well as theoretical analyses and policy studies. Besides the faculty members’ individual research work, the IER has a history of successful collaborative research. In addition, the publication of the “Long-Term Economic Statistics Series” (14 volumes) from the 1960s to the 1980s, along with its successor, “the Asian Historical Statistics Series” (12 volumes), which commenced in 2008, is one of IER’s greatest contributions to economics in Japan and worldwide.
The IER’s high rate of acceptance for competitive research grants such as Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research over several years indicates that its research is highly evaluated. The obtained research funds in turn have allowed us to promote high-quality research, creating a virtuous cycle between fund raising and research.
The IER has also been functioning as a “Center for Empirical Analysis on Japanese and Global Economy” under the new Joint Usage/Research Center project of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology since 2010. The main objective is to build an international collaborative research center backed by the development of a system for using government microdata as well as the development of general data archives and methods for statistical analysis. In recent years, an increasing number of researchers outside Japan have been participating in joint research projects. This indicates that the IER has been enhancing its functions as a hub for joint research activities in this field in Japan and worldwide.
The IER takes pride in its effective research support structure, which substantially facilitates research activities. The Office of Publications and Faculty Support Office provides support for publication of research results; the Large-Scale Data Archiving and Processing Section handles data entry and maintenance, support for analysis, Internet security and related matters, and the Institute’s archives; and the Research Centre for Information and Statistics of Social Science performs library functions. In addition, budget execution and accounting for Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research are managed strictly by the administration office. This support system contributes to IER’s research activities by its staff members.
However, we should guard against complacency and keep moving forward. There are three goals to be achieved by the IER. First, we should make every effort to generate even higher levels of research results, especially in the field of empirical research. In recent years, it has become a common practice to evaluate academic performance on the number of refereed journal articles with a higher impact factor. Arguably, there does not seem any better way to evaluate our academic performance; thus, we must give the highest priority to publish our research outcomes and ensure they are evaluated in the global research community.
Second, we should enhance our role as a provider of “public goods” to the research community, in addition to strengthening our productivity of narrow-defined research output in the forms of journal articles and books. Specifically, the IER as a Joint Usage/Research Center should establish the infrastructure for advanced research on the Japanese and global economies by developing general data archives and methods of statistical analysis. To this end, we are planning to strengthen cooperation with the Institute of Economic Research of Kyoto University and the Institute of Social and Economic Research of Osaka University, both of which are Joint Usage/Research Centers.
Third, we should make our research more policy-oriented. In recent years, more emphasis has been placed on an “evidence-based” approach in policymaking and evaluation. The IER is in a favorable position to contribute to this approach, given its strength and experience in empirical research. Moreover, the IER has been expanding its cooperation in research and personnel exchanges with the government ministries, the Bank of Japan, government-affiliated research institutes, and private think tanks. Based on the close relations with policymakers, researchers, and business economists and the constructive feedback between policy and research, the IER should strengthen the policy implications of research and enhance the ability of policy proposals.
To address these challenges and maintain a high level of contribution toward the society, the faculty, researchers, administrators, and research support staff in the IER should work hard together as one.