HeKKSaGOn spin-off programme supporting the next generation of researchers

The HeKKSaGOn spin-off programme “Five Dialogues for Future Research and Science with Early Career Researchers” was held online on 23 November. The program was organised jointly by the L-INSIGHT programme and the two HeKKSaGOn universities Heidelberg University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

 Five L-INSIGHT fellows each moderated a dialogue session with ECRs (Early Career Researchers) from the two German universities on trans-disciplinary topics. These topics included for example the research environment and the way of thinking in the respective research fields, and other topics the fellows deemed to be important to discuss to develop future research projects. As a way of cultivating global vision, a fundamental theme was set to give a bird’s-eye view of the research topic itself.


 Despite the fact that the day was a national holiday in Japan, 85 participants from 18 universities in Japan and abroad registered for the event. The the Director of the European Centre, Mika Yokoyama, initiated the event with her opening remarks, followed by greetings from Matthias Weidemüller, Vice-Rector for Innovation and Transfer of Heidelberg University and Norihiro Tokitoh, Director of Research at Kyoto University.

The fellows themselves acted as moderators of the parallel sessions, which provided an opportunity to practice facilitation skills such as raising questions and engaging in dialogues with others. Some of the sessions focused more on the details of the participant’s research, while others were more general in nature, but all of them ended with a [lively]

discussion with the participants in the audience.

Each topic, in fact, was too big to be discussed in only 75 minutes, but the goal of the parallel sessions was not to draw conclusions in the first place. One of the objectives of the event however was to provide a mechanism for ECRs to define their own research questions more clearly or to raise new questions through the various conversations and thus to continue their research with a greater sense of purpose in the future.

After the wrap-up by the fellows, three guests acknowledged the current event or “platform” as follows: Prof. Dr. Stefan Norra from the KIT said that “a place where scientific questions can be explored is a place where different cultures can come into contact”. Prof. Yasuyuki Kono, Vice-President for International Strategy of Kyoto University, repeatedly stressed the importance of “questions”, for example he emphasized the importance of “sharing questions” and that “sharing the unknown leads to new questions”. He also pointed out that it is important not to “hesitate to ask questions” in general. Professor Motomu Tanaka of Heidelberg University added in regard to “generating questions and sharing questions” in research that “making our questions shareable and relevant to the target is important” and that “making our approaches really fun”, without overly generalizing might be key to future successful occasions of the event.  

In view of the pandemic situation, the conference was held online, but a sequel is planned for early summer 2022, with an actual visit to Germany. The European Center will continue to support this event to ensure its success.