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UPDATE: Brenner's Okinawa Institute Seeks to Fill 15 Faculty Positions

This report was originally published June 30, and updated on July 2 to include additional information from a spokesperson for the institute.

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Japan's Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology has begun a search to fill approximately 15 faculty positions, as it pursues accreditation as an independent university, and prepares to welcome its first class of graduate students in September 2012.

In a statement on its website, OIST said it is seeking to hire principal investigators and independent new investigators for five-year periods that would be renewable following a scientific review. The investigators could either enhance existing areas of research or establish new ones, the institute said.

"New research areas include structural biology, biological physics, biological chemistry, marine sciences, ecology and evolutionary biology, and microbial and plant genetics," OIST said in the statement.

The deadline for submitting applications is July 31. Interviews will be set for August and September, with appointments expected to be made by early 2011. Additional information and an application are available here.

The institute is led by Founding President and First President Sydney Brenner, a co-winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, for research that identified key genes regulating organ development and programmed cell death in worms. He also helped discover messenger RNA.

"The ratio of Japanese to non-Japanese will be maintained at approximately 50:50," according to the six-page information supplement on the faculty positions.

Not set as of yet are the numbers of PIs and INIs to be hired by OIST. "The ratio will depend on the quality of the candidates in each area. Probably there will be several INIs, but a fixed number has not been set," Kaoru Natori, a spokesperson for the institute, told GenomeWeb Daily News.

Natori said candidates will be evaluated by a search
committee that screens applications and interviews short-listed applicants, who are invited to OIST to give a lecture about their research work and
meet with the existing faculty.

While candidates are evaluated according to several criteria, Natori said, "one’s excellence in
research is given the greatest weight."

The search committee and OIST's Board of Governors will offer recommendations, though Brenner has final say on who will be appointed to the institute's faculty.

By seeking faculty members now, Natori said, OIST hopes to meet staffing appointment standards needed for accreditation by the Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The institute will need to apply for accreditation early next year to launch the grad school as planned in 2012.

OIST has launched 23 research groups in four major areas — neuroscience, molecular sciences, mathematical and computational biology, as well as marine ecological science. As of April, the institute had more than 170 researchers, and more than 70 administrative staffers whose positions support the researchers, the supplement stated.

Once the institute completes its transition to a graduate university in 2012, OIST said, the faculty members' positions will be changed to traditional tenure-track professors, assistant professors, and associate professors. Some faculty members will be hired part-time or jointly with other research institutions, the institute added.

Earlier this year, OIST completed the first construction stage — including a hub building and one of three planned laboratory buildings — for its permanent Onna-son main campus.

Established in September 2005, OIST is funded by the Japanese government but develops and conducts its academic and research programs independently. The institute's budget — a combination of operations and facilities subsidies from Japan's national government — has risen over the past year to ¥13.3 billion ($150 million) in the current fiscal year that began April 1, up from ¥11.2 billion a year earlier and more than double the ¥5 billion of 2005.

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