The Graduate School of Frontier Sciences (GSFS), bestowed an uncommon name, was founded in 1998. This name, departing from the common practice of naming departments in accordance with specific domains of study, conveys its focus on “sciences that give rise to new disciplines and domains”, rather than specifying existing ones, in the spirit of learning shared and furthered throughout the organization by its constituent members. With this in mind, it may well be asked what sort of organization will serve to promote their furtherance.
The term “science” broadly means a search for truth to deepen knowledge in a certain domain or discipline, which is considered to require the construction of appropriate conceptual frameworks and organizations. This approach can be thought of as having brought about the development of existing disciplines; however, current trends in environment, energy, infectious disease, public health, and other areas pose severe problems for society that cannot be resolved simply by deepening extant domains, but will instead require domain-transcendent conceptualization and endeavors. We recognize that a transdisciplinary conceptualization and approach, which inherently transcends the existing scientific disciplines and domains, can and indeed must serve as a means for dealing with the pressing concerns that now confront humankind.
At my own laboratory for “urban research”, through discussions with students, I emphasize the significance of affiliation with this graduate school, beyond the bounds of extant frameworks and disciplines, and encourage them to hold in common the strength of membership in an organization with an intellectual prerogative of rising to meet the challenge of solving urban problems through enhanced freedom of conceptualization.
In the more than two decades since its founding, this graduate school has cultivated many alumni imbued with that spirit and seen them launch successful careers in many fields. In its short history of just one-seventh the total 140 years of history of the University of Tokyo, the GSFS has enjoyed the support of many individuals internally and externally, and generated many advances in research that have brought international acclaim.
In addition, at the frontier district known as the new Kashiwanoha urban development, where the Kashiwa campus was established, the GSFS has contributed to the realization of community development and to the creation of a regional network. The location of the Kashiwa campus periphery at the frontier of the new urban development and smart-city creation thus differs substantially from those of the Hongo and Komaba campuses, which are bordered by mature urban areas. While taking advantage of the opportunity of the location for field trials and social implementations, we have also been cooperating with the local community through various means including the Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha (UDCK) and other regional operations, all of which contribute to the richness and unique strengths of the Kashiwa campus.
At the founding of this graduate school some twenty years ago, it would have been improbable to predict the development of the Internet of things and other digital-data-driven aspects of today’s society. By the same token, the conditions of society twenty years in the future from now will no doubt encompass many unforeseeable aspects. The development of experts who can predict and take the lead in social transitions will continue to hold critical importance in the future. For the effective preservation of a sustainable society, these experts will be required to have an accurate sensitivity to and perception of otherwise unforeseen social epochal trends and transitions, and a capability for intelligent and flexible response in concert with the anticipation of issues arising with these changes. Salient functions of this graduate school will accordingly include creation of model pioneering international education programs, such as its “Graduate Program in Sustainability Science?Global Leadership Initiative” (GPSS-GLI), in conjunction with the development and provision of outstanding personnel for the global community.
The creation of new domains of scientific research can be said to be driven by research on topics that are beyond the scope of extant disciplines. To this end, our goal is to seek out and work with graduate school personnel, mutually supporting individual researchers and colleagues from differing fields, and using multilateral exchange with amicable review and competition as a source of intellectual vitality.
For all the many students and faculty members, and despite the difficulties currently imposed by the severe COVID-19 pandemic, our sincere wish is to work to provide all possible support as a graduate school. We hope to continue to create exciting opportunities and sites that will advance transdisciplinary scientific knowledge, while employing the requisite measures for safety and infection prevention. In this endeavor, we trust in your consideration and support.
Dean, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo