Message from the Director
The Policy Alternatives Research Institute (PARI) is a think tank at the University of Tokyo. This may sound like a contradiction: why do we need a think tank at a university? I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and reaffirm what PARI stands for.
The first role of a university is research. I think it is clear that universities thrive on outstanding findings that challenge previous theories or paradigms. Also obvious is that the primary audience for such new research is researchers themselves, for they can appreciate the contributions made by their peers.
This also means that researchers may not be as interested in the social impact of their studies. Academics eager to advance scientific knowledge are not necessarily eager to think of the use of such knowledge, unless such use leads to material benefits. If we leave academic research only in the hands of academics, the results may end up consumed within the ivory tower, with no impact on society.
Another role of universities is education, which is the primary route through which academic achievements are channeled to a new generation, who are expected to carry the torch and generate new findings. Of course, education is not only about educating researchers, because it has an important nexus that unites university research and broader society.
However, education need not and should not be the only nexus between a university and society. Scientific information becomes less relevant over time, and after several decades, college graduates can no longer rely on what they learned in class. Here, we must open a path that integrates university research and social needs in a different way than education in the narrow sense.
In other words, universities should no longer remain institutions for research and education, but deliver academic findings in a way that best suits the community’s needs and demands. This is what we do. PARI attempts to find and provide an alternate path between academic research and the society in which research is conducted, most often in the form of policy proposals that should be implemented for the public need. PARI is similar to a think tank; however, the proposals that emanate from this think tank are based on advanced research that previously may have been left in the confines of the ivory tower. By providing a path between research and a concrete call for action, PARI transforms advanced research into a property that can be shared by a wider public.
Research must accompany relevance. Traditional academic research could maintain that new findings are relevant by themselves, even if the research has little impact on improving lives. This will not do, for a mere show of research findings does not assure its relevance. What questions need to be addressed? What answers are most in demand? Relevant research becomes so only through constant interactions between the provider of knowledge and its consumer. We believe that the relevance of research stems from showing a new choice, an alternative unknown before. As an institute for policy alternatives, our duty is to show previously unknown views and choices.
Director, Policy Alternatives Research Institute,
The University of Tokyo