Objectives of the G-COE Program

The significance of empirical research in the social sciences can be compared to that of experiments in the natural sciences. Of utmost importance for such empirical research is the availability of long-term statistics and micro-data. Taking advantage of the substantial statistical resources already available at the Institute of Economic Research (IER), the aim of this COE Program is to create an extensive data archive that is open to researchers from around the world and is the focal point for a research and education center of global significance. To this end, the Program provides support for leading-edge statistical, empirical, and theoretical research based on the data archive, and for the development of young academics through "on-the-job" training.

The Data Archive

The G-COE Hi-Stat Program builds on previous work of the 21st Century COE program "Research Unit for Statistical Analysis in the Social Sciences" ("Hi-Stat program," implemented in fiscal 2003-2007). Led by the Research Centre for Information and Statistics of Social Science (RCISSS) attached to the IER, the Hi-Stat program has already created a major data archive and developed and expanded it as follows:

  1. The program set up Japan's first micro-data center (Micro-Data Analysis Section) in collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC). Since then, the RCISSS has provided researchers nationwide with access to the micro-data collected through official Japanese government surveys.
  2. The program constructed and partially published the Asian Historical Statistics for a range of Asian countries that allow the analysis of economic developments spanning a period of over 100 years.
  3. The program conducted careful analyses of industry-level productivity and, in collaboration with the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI) created and published the Japan Industrial Productivity (JIP) Database, which makes it possible to examine productivity in Japan from an international comparative perspective.

The RCISSS also holds an unrivalled collection of Japanese government statistics beginning from the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and covering a variety of statistical resources ranging from population statistics to education, police, and health statistics. In addition, the RCISSS is a leading repository of Asian historical statistics as a result of the work of a previous COE program for the "Construction of a Pan-Asian Historical Economic Statistics Database" (1995-1999). The current Program works on the further expansion of the existing databases. The government micro-data and the Japanese and Asian statistics compiled by the RCISSS cover a wide range of economic and social spheres. Although the primary focus of this Program is on economics, it also includes empirical research in related social sciences such as demography and regional studies.

Education, Training, Support

Given recent advances in empirical research using micro-data and the use of such research in institutional design, there is a growing demand from top-level research institutions as well as government, business, and international organizations for specialists with strong research and analytical skills in this area. Against this background, the Program aims to further expand the education and training of such specialists by offering professionals and students from Japan and abroad the opportunity to enroll in the university's Ph.D. program. Providing access to the data archive, the opportunity for graduate students to take part in leading-edge joint research with the large number foreign scholars visiting to use our data, and training and supervision by statistical and economic theoreticians, the G-COE Program offers an ideal environment for world-class training and research in the field of statistical and empirical analysis. In addition, to train promising researchers with an international outlook, the Program offers the following educational activities:

  1. Based on a strict screening process, the Program provides financial support to Ph.D. students by employing them as "COE Young Researchers," Research Assistants, or Teaching Assistants. These are required to participate in joint research.
  2. The Program provides a systematic set of courses, which students are required to attend.
  3. The Program offers lecture series held by top-level overseas researchers.
  4. Students are offered opportunities to deliver presentations at international conferences and conduct research at overseas institutions.

Extensive Empirical Research and Expansion and Maintenance of the Data Archive

The compilation and maintenance of a data archive is - needless to say - not an end in itself. Rather, its purpose is to provide the basis for research that contributes to our understanding of the world around us and, ideally, provides solutions for economic and social problems. However, in order for statistical resources to fulfil this role, the collection of the data itself must be informed by empirical and theoretical research. In this context, the current Program is fortunate to be able to build on joint research conducted by leading Japanese empirical and theoretical economists in the fields of welfare economics, macroeconomics, finance, industrial organization, international economics, labor economics, public economics, and economic development inherited from another 21st Century COE Program on the "Normative Evaluation and Social Choice of Contemporary Economic Systems." Many of the researchers involved in that program are participating in the current G-COE Hi-Stat Program, thereby substantially expanding the fields covered by the database to be compiled and made available to the public and contributing to the theoretical foundations for empirical research. Moreover, based on their empirical research and normative analysis, members of that program provided important policy recommendations and proposals for institutional design in areas such as competition policy and social welfare policy. This program inherits such policy research as well.

Development of Statistical Methods Directly Related to the Data Archive

The development of new statistical methods has been a major driving force for advances in empirical research. In addition, statistical theory also forms a key element in the training of economists and other social scientists today. Against this background, collaboration in the Program by statistical theorists in the training of young researchers and the development of statistical methods directly related to the data archive represents another key pillar of the G-COE Hi-Stat Program. With regard to research, the Program focuses on developing new analytical methods for macroeconomic longitudinal data and panel models using microeconomic data. Moreover, the Program is engaged in the collation and maintenance of high frequency data of domestic and overseas asset prices as well as research on statistical methods for econometric finance required to analyze such data.

A Global Research Center Open to Scholars and Students from Around the World

Over the past decades, our data archive and empirical research have made the IER a leading center that attracts researchers from around the world, and the current program aims to expand on that reputation. Already, a large number of researchers and Ph.D. candidates from leading universities around the world, such as Yale, Stanford, and the London School of Economics (LSE), have come to stay with us to conduct research using the data available at the Institute. As a center open to the international academic community, this Program offers COE research fellowships to Ph.D. students and young researchers from both Japanese and overseas institutions to provide them with financial and practical support over several months. In addition, the Program invites both overseas and Japanese researchers at the post-doctoral level to work with us as a "COE Visiting Young Researcher." Moreover, by extending systematic support for scholars to make use of government micro-data, by expanding competitive grant research programs, and by utilizing the facilities of the university such as the IER, the Program seeks to establish a global research base where a number of Ph.D. students and researchers from both domestic and overseas institutions constantly take part in any research in progress. Working with Groningen University and the LSE, the Program also continues to build global networks in order to publish data on economic development and productivity from around the world.