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Inspired by the thought-provoking articles in this month?s Next Wave feature and thinking of working or studying in Japan?

Reading about the experiences of those who have already ventured East may well have given you a realistic insight into what to expect, but the logistics of organising and financing a sojourn or extended trip are still daunting. So, for Next Wave Germany readers, we have compiled the following resources as a starting point, directing you to the best of the crop of funding possibilities.

The most useful piece of general advice applies to many aspects of a scientific career--start planning way ahead. For research stints, it is essential to find a willing Japanese host before you even print out your application form. Some of the grant-funding bodies even insist that your host should be a past fellow of theirs, so a certain amount of homework is necessary. And to obtain funding to study at a Japanese university or to visit Japan for a language course, a proven knowledge of and interest in the country is imperative, so make sure your CV shows it.

The following funding opportunities are available for all scientific fields, unless otherwise stated.

Postdocs fellowships: longer period of stay

German postdocs can carry out research in Japan for between 1 and 4 years with funding from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation ( AvH). The requirements include that the applicant must be under 38 years of age and their host institute has been previously sponsored by the AvH. The value of the monthly stipend is approximately ?3000. Bear in mind that research periods funded by the AvH abroad are exempt from the so-called "12-year rule" of the Framework Act for Higher Education ("12 Jahres-Regel" der neuen Fassung des Hochschulrahmengesetzes). Further information can be found directly from the foundation.

Postdoc funding for a 1- to 2-year period in Japan is available from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), administered through their German liaison office in Bonn. The fellowship package includes a monthly stipend of approximately ?3000, a relocation allowance, and return flight. Austrian and Swiss researchers can also apply for this grant, but should do so directly via the BMWF or SNSF, respectively.

Practical information for planning your application and stay

For tips from those with firsthand experience of undertaking research in Japan, it might be worth getting in contact with the JSPS German alumni association.

DAAD offers resources about exchange with Japan on its Web site. It also has a couple of interesting publications: Studieninfo Japan and Studienführer, China and Japan, DAAD/Bertelsmann (?14,90 ISBN 3-7639-0438-7)

German Embassy, Tokyo

Japanese Embassy, Berlin

General information about higher education courses in Japan

Something well worth bearing in mind is that, in some instances, AvH and JSPS fellows can be supported with temporary bridging assistance on their return to Germany if they fail to find immediate employment.

Further long-term funding for postdocs and senior scientists is available under the so-called bilateral research projects of the JSPS in conjunction with the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft ( DFG). Funding opportunities for research periods of 2 years are available and must be submitted by both parties (i.e., the German applicant and the Japanese host laboratory) concurrently. According to Dr Gernot Gad of the DFG, the programme is extremely flexible, and each case is evaluated on its individual merits. Therefore German and Japanese researchers could work in their home laboratories and/or spend some time in the other country. Funding is also available for organising joint seminars under this scheme.

Medium length stays (2 to 10 months) for research scientists

This grant is open to all of the following candidates: postdocs with 6 or more years experience, junior and full professors. A stipend worth ?3000 per month plus a return flight is offered. Applications can be made via the AvH or through the Japanese host through the JSPS main office in Tokyo.

Short-term stays (14 to 60 days) for PhD students and postdocs

Another initiative of the JSPS is a summer programme allowing German PhD students and postdocs to do research in a Japanese lab for up to 2 months. A week-long introductory course on Japanese language, culture, and science policy is part of the deal. The programme is administered in Germany by the Deutscher Akademischer Autausch Dienst (DAAD). Expenses are covered by a total stipend of approximately ?4500. The next programme will take place over July and August 2004. Applications can be sent to DAAD starting from this Autumn.

Combined language courses and company internships for science graduates

DAAD and the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung BMBF offer an 18-month programme which gives German natural science and engineering graduates the opportunity both to learn Japanese and obtain work experience in a Japanese company. The programme includes the following components. Firstly, prior to departure, grant holders benefit from a 3-week (language and culture) preparatory course in Bochum, Germany. This is followed by a 9-month language course in Tokyo including excursions to research and commercial organisations. The concluding 9 months are spent doing an internship in a Japanese company. The next round of the programme will kick off in summer 2004. The Japanese government ( Monbukagakusho) Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology itself offers support for further and postgraduate education for German nationals for a duration of up to 2 years. See the DAAD Web site for further details.

The language course/internship programme run by InWent GmbH (formerly the Carl Duisberg Society) is open to graduates and nongraduates, with a technical background, who are under 30 years of age. A 3-month intensive language course is followed by a 3-month internship (the language course is continued in parallel) in a company.

Information about other student exchange possibilities--internships and scholarships--are available from the Association of International Education, Japan, and the International Student organisation AIESEC.