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Message from the Director

    kitamura_2015.jpg The Institute of Economic Research (IER) is an organization with a long tradition, established April 1, 1940 as the Research Institute of East Asia Economies (Toa Keizai Kenkyusho in Japanese) of the Tokyo University of Commerce and then 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 through individual research and joint research led by IER staff members, earning the high regard of researchers, the research community, and universities and research institutions in Japan and around the world. One of its achievements of particular note is the research for and publication of the Long-Term Economic Statistics Series (LTES) from the 1950s through the 1980s (14 volumes in total). As a successor to the LTES, since the 1990s the IER has been carrying out research for the Asian Historical Statistics Series (planned to make up 12 volumes in total), publication of which began in fiscal 2008.

     The IER defines its current mission as follows:
     “To play a leading role in Japan in the future through development of outstanding databases on economics and society as well as advanced theoretical and empirical analysis and policy research directly connected to these data, and to enhance its functions as a hub for joint research activities in this field in Japan and worldwide.”     
     Hitotsubashi University has established medium-term goals for the University as a whole. The parts of these goals relating to IER’s mission are (1) generating even higher levels of world-class research results, (2) putting the institutes for advanced social sciences research to active use to realize fruitful joint international research, (3) maintaining a solid research infrastructure at all times, and (4) giving back the results of research to society. Through alignment with these goals, the IER’s current plans are to actively promote (1) improvements to its databases, (2) development of facilities for joint use, (3) international joint research, and (4) system design and policy recommendations.
     To carry out these plans, on April 1 of this year the IER reorganized its research structure into the following 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. It 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, with the cooperation of faculty in each research division and partner researchers in Japan and overseas.
     Large-scale projects currently underway that have been awarded Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research include the Hitotsubashi Project on Real Estate, Financial Crisis, and Economic Dynamics (HIT-REFINED) (Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (S)), Japan’s Current Account Dynamics in the Time of Population Aging and Decline (Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A)), Empirical Investigations in the Pre-War Agricultural Household Economy: A Panel Data Analysis (Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A)), Population Dynamics in Russia: Micro-Econometric Approach (Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A)), Analysis of Economic Welfare Based on Panel Data in Japan (Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A)), and Basic Research on the Development of a Multidimensional Indicator of Collection of Opportunities for Individual Choice from a Potential Capacity Approach (Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A)). In addition, active joint research is underway in International Research Collaboration for Formulating Trans-Positional Capability Index, which has been chosen as a JSPS Program for Advancing Strategic International Networks to Accelerate the Circulation of Talented Researchers.
     As can be seen from the themes of these research projects, the IER’s activities combine empirical research based on solid statistical data with normative research based on economic theory and economic ethics, under an integrated research structure aiming for solutions to diverse economic issues.
     This research structure is supported by a current staff of 69 faculty and researchers, 15 members of administrative staff, and 50 research support staff. These 50 research support staff are employed mainly through competitive grants such as Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research.
     The IER’s energetic research activities are supported by its research support structure featuring a ratio of support personnel to faculty and researchers that is nearly one-to-one, with 65 administrators and research support staff supporting 69 faculty and researchers. The Office of Publications and Faculty Support Office provide 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 other matters, and the Institute’s archives and the Research Centre for Information and Statistics of Social Science perform library functions. In addition, matters such as budget execution and accounting for Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research are managed strictly by the administration office. The IER’s high rate of acceptance for competitive research grants over many years can be said to be in large part thanks to the office’s support for grant applications.
     Next I would like to summarize the directions in which the IER should move in the future in this outstanding research environment.
     First, we will advance the collection, publication, and use of various types of statistical data (including historical data, the collection and maintenance of which requires massive amounts of time and costs, secondary use of official statistics collected by the government, and big data such as high-frequency data and POS data using state-of-the-art information technologies), which serve as the foundations of empirical research. Through doing so, we will aim to become an international hub for advanced empirical and theoretical research in social science in the same league as experimental research in natural science. To do so, we will enhance our functions as a center for joint use and joint research, open not just in Japan but internationally as well, and actively promote international joint research. I also would like us to take on the challenges of developing new frontiers in economic research, activating the functions of the Research Division of Frontier Sciences in Economics.
     Second, it goes without saying that the source of pride for IER faculty is found in their ability to carry out outstanding research and make contributions in the key research domains of the social science. However, at the same time it also is important to provide society with information it can use along with advice on system design and policy recommendations, and we are expected to play an active role in these areas as well. In fact, there are many opportunities for IER faculty to contribute to the management of contemporary society, both in the public and private sectors. There are great expectations for contributions by IER faculty in areas such as those that would require too much time or expense if private-sector businesses or government were to take them on and those that require accumulation of knowledge over many years in order to design optimal systems based on a deep understanding of them.
     To achieve these goals, it is important that the faculty, researchers, administrators, and research support staff in the IER’s newly established five research divisions and four affiliated research facilities work hard together as one while maintaining a high level of contribution to the public good as well as a high degree of originality in their respective research.
April 1, 2015
Yukinobu Kitamura
Director, Hitotsubashi University Institute of Economic Research (IER)