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Degree Conferment Ceremony 2016.1.19

Degree Conferment Ceremony 2016.1.19

Today, it is my great honor to present doctoral degrees to 13 students from Hiroshima University. Congratulations to each and every one of you. I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations on behalf of Hiroshima University.

The diligence and hard work of each and every one of you, culminating in your award today, is something that I greatly respect. The gratitude that you must also feel towards your loving, supportive family members, friends and teachers goes without saying. With this in mind, it would be an honor for me to see you to proudly step forward into the world as a doctoral graduate of Hiroshima University.

We hereby mark the beginning of a new year, 2016. Last year saw turmoil and anxiety around the world due to numerous terrorist attacks, and well may we wonder what kind of year this one will be. On New Year's Day, newspapers issued editorials with the following titles:

“Japan’s major responsibility to contribute to world security” (The Yomiuri Shimbun)
“The divided world – now the year of recovering global solidarity” (The Asahi Shimbun)
“2016: Diversification makes our democracy stronger” (The Mainichi Shimbun)
“Catching up with and overtaking other countries”; strategies that meet the needs of a new era” (The Nihon Keizai Shimbun)
 “At the beginning of 2016 - Collect our strength to regenerate our nation” (The Sankei Shimbun)
“To mark the 70th anniversary of the proclamation of Japan's Constitution: Strengthen our democracy” (The Chugoku Shimbun)

Regardless of the differences in their stances, each newspaper publishing company uses common keywords such as “world”, “regenerate” and “democracy”. My understanding is that 2016 is a year to challenge ourselves in the regeneration of our society, overcoming various difficulties from a global perspective, and that our democracy will surely become an important basis for such efforts. Furthermore, I think that the same applies to the field of academia.

Academic research has no national boundaries. At the end of last year, there were media reports that a new element, produced artificially by a research team at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), was certified as a chemical element with the atomic number 113, and that Japan had acquired naming rights for it. I have heard that this achievement was preceded by fierce competition between teams of researchers from the U.S. and Russia.

Since the occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster five years ago, it has remained fresh in our minds that Japanese confidence in the scientific community has been shaken. In addition, repeated cases of research misconduct such as the STAP Cells incident have occurred, causing the quality and ethical standards of scientists to be put under the spotlight and severely questioned. In such precarious circumstances, I believe that it will take more than individual researchers but also universities, research institutions and the academic community as a whole to come up with the determination and strategies to mend the reputation of the quality of our academic research.

According to the proposal issued in 2013 by the Council for Science and Technology, entitled “the direction of future scientific technology and academic policy resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake”; academic research must be “based on researchers’ individual intrinsic motivations and promoted by their own initiative”. It also says that “the greatest importance in academic research is, along with truth-seeking and problem-solving, the discovery and welcoming of new challenges”. As signified by the phrase “academic freedom”, all researchers are required to exhibit their research capabilities to the utmost, with their own independence and autonomy. I believe that freedom of academic research cannot exist without sound development of democracy; and history has shown this to be true.

Along your future path, there may be numerous difficult questions waiting for you. Yet, together with your specialist expertise, the wide-ranging and in-depth liberal arts education engraved upon your body, mind and soul will help you to overcome the difficulties that you may encounter in life. I sincerely hope that all of you, having received a doctoral degree from Hiroshima University, with its origins as the site of the world’s first atomic bombing, will continue to deepen your knowledge to become “peace-pursuing cultured individuals of the world.”

As you know, in 2013 Hiroshima University was selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) as one of 22 institutes of the “Program for Promoting the Enhancement of Research Universities”. And in 2014, as one of Japan’s top 13 universities, our university was selected by MEXT for the “Top Global University Project”, providing world-class research and education (Type A). We have committed ourselves both in name and reality to be “ranked among the world's top 100 universities within 10 years” as a “national university that ranks alongside overseas universities with its excellent results and core values in university-wide distinguished educational research and social implementation”.

My goal as president of Hiroshima University is to build a “University of World-wide Repute and Splendor for Years into the Future”. I sincerely hope that you, who will spread your wings across the world and regional community, will also stay together as one, maintaining a tight bond with Hiroshima University as we proceed together towards this goal, working to cultivate our research and educational prowess.

In conclusion, I hope that your road ahead will lead to a brilliant future, filled with promise and hope.

January 19th, 2016

Mitsuo Ochi
President, Hiroshima University


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