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Professor Shin-Ichi Ohnuma recognised for Japan-UK academic co-operation

By ucypsga, on 26 January 2018

Professor Shin-Ichi Ohnuma and Japan AmbassadorUCL’s Japan ambassador Professor Shin-Ichi Ohnuma has been awarded the Foreign Minister’s Commendation for his contribution to Japan-UK academic and educational relations.

Earlier this month, Ambassador Koji Tsuruoka presented Ohnuma, Professor at the Institute of Ophthalmology, with the award at a ceremony at the Embassy of Japan in London.

In addition to his work as Director of the PhD programme of the Sensory System, Technology and Therapies, Professor Ohnuma has worked over many years to strengthen UCL’s ties with Japan.

Historic links

Professor Ohnuma’s collaborative work includes the organisation of numerous important events. In 2013, he helped to organise celebrations involving various Japanese organisations to mark the 150th anniversary of UK-Japan academic collaboration, when five Japanese samurai – known as the ‘Choshu Five’ – first came to study at UCL.

Speaking after receiving his award, Professor Ohnuma said, “UCL has an amazing history with Japan, which includes the Choshu-Five and Satsuma-19.

“But in my role as UCL’s Japan ambassador and through active interaction with Japanese universities, high schools, and industries, I want to increase the status of UCL in Japan, improving recognition and the number of Japanese students studying here.”

Improving UK-Japan relations

In 2014, Ohnuma played an important part in the ‘Japan-UK Universities Conference for Collaboration in Research and Education,’ co-hosted by UCL and the Embassy of Japan in the UK.

Attended by 14 Japanese universities, 16 UK universities and the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, the conference encouraged further collaboration for not only UCL but many universities in both the UK and Japan.

A champion of future talent, Professor Ohnuma has also worked to encourage mutual understanding between young people in Japan and the UK. In 2015, he established the UCL-Japan Youth Challenge programme to promote interaction between students in both countries.

Hosted by many organisations in the UK, it has since been held annually, with around 100 students from both countries involved.

Contributions to Fukushima

Professor Ohnuma has also made significant contributions to his home prefecture, Fukushima, which was badly affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster. On top of supporting reconstruction efforts in the area, he played a key role in arranging a Memorandum of Understanding between UCL and the Fukushima prefectural government, and supported UCL students’ recent visit to the region.

Of the visit he said, “This month I visited Fukushima – where the East Japan Disaster inflicted huge damage six years ago – with 10 UCL and UCL Academy students, to understand the current status of Fukushima and encourage young generations in the area.”

At last week’s ceremony, Ambassador Tsuruoka congratulated Professor Ohnuma on his significant contribution to UK-Japan relations. Commenting on his award, Ohnuma said, “It is a great honour for me to receive this award from the Japanese Government.”

Ask GEO: Lizzy Deacon, Senior Partnership Manager (East Asia)

By ucypsga, on 10 January 2018

Could you give a brief overview of your role and the activity in your region?

I’m the Senior Partnership Manager for East Asia and I’ve been in the role for nearly six months.

I’m responsible for implementing UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy in the region, which involves facilitating our partnerships of equivalence, principally with Peking University (PKU). We have several other important partnerships in East Asia, including with Osaka University in Japan.

Part of my role involves nurturing these partnerships, which includes organising bilateral delegation visits and monitoring the agreements made in our MOUs [memorandums of understanding]. So far I’ve already been on two delegation visits led by the Provost – one to Japan and one to China – and I got married in between the two, so it’s been rather a baptism of fire!

What led you to the role?

I studied Chinese with International Relations at Durham and SOAS, and was always keen to work in an environment that made use of my knowledge of the country and the language. I lived in China for a year as part of my degree before working at Oxford University in international programmes/partnerships for eight years, followed by Queen Mary University, where I managed a large joint programme with a university in China. When I saw this job come up I was really excited because it gave me the opportunity to move into a more strategic role.

You went on the Provost’s trip to China late last year. How did it go?

It was hugely successful. The focus of the visit was a trip to PKU. We visited three of the key schools at PKU with whom we have strong collaborations (the School for Chinese as a Second Language, the National School of Development and the Yenching Academy). We also had a Presidential-level meeting at which we signed a memo which details the main strands of our collaboration with PKU, and signed the agreement for a new dual MA programme in Health and Humanity.

We also visited Hanban, where the Provost gave a very well-received speech about the UCL IoE Confucius Institute, and we met with the head of the British Council in China and the British Ambassador. In addition, the Provost presided over UCL’s first ever graduation celebration for Chinese graduands and their families in China.

What was your personal highlight of the trip?

Probably building a relationship with my counterpart at PKU: I think it will really help the relationship to flourish. Also, attending (and salsa dancing at) the Beijing Alumni Ball, together with the whole team, including the Provost.

How can academics find out more about UCL activity in the region?

We have some region-specific funding schemes, both with the university of Hong Kong (the strategic partnership fund around Grand Challenges themes, led by OVPR) and we also have a PKU strategic partner seed funding scheme, which is about to reopen. You can find all of the information about this on the GEO web pages.

I’m also really keen to get out there and meet academics who have significant collaborations in the region. If they need information about a specific partner university or want to know whether or not there’s an existing collaboration with a university in their region, please get in touch with me! All UCL staff who are interested in the East Asia Region are also welcome to join the regional network.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

One of my priorities for 2018 is following up on the momentum generated by our successful Japan visit. It’s really exciting that our partnerships there are moving forward at such a pace and I’m looking forward to working with our partners to further deepen our collaborations.

UCL student opportunity: visit Fukushima in 2018

By Sophie Vinter, on 14 November 2017

Delegates at the 2016 UCL visit to Fukushima PrefectureUCL students with an interest in Japan can apply for a fully-funded opportunity to visit Fukushima during January 2018.

Fukushima Prefecture, with whom UCL has a longstanding collaboration, is inviting two students from any discipline to join a ten-strong delegation to visit from 15-21 January. Delegates will include staff from UCL’s Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction, EPICentre and UCL Academy.

Students can find out more about the opportunity at a Q&A session with Professor Shin-ichi Ohnuma, UCL’s Japan Ambassador, on 24 November 2017 at 12.00-13.00 at UCL’s Confucius Institute (15 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0NS).

The prefecture will fully support the UCL team visit, including the cost of air fare, accommodation, meals and in-country travel.

The successful students will be asked to contribute social media and blog posts about their experiences while they are in Japan, as well as taking part in a group presentation about the visit.

Active collaboration

Tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 2011The Japanese islands face an extraordinary range of natural hazards – earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami, landslides and tropical cyclones.

In 2011, East Japan suffered from a huge earthquake and tsumani, which killed many people along the coastline. The tsumani affected the Fukushima Nuclear power plant, which resulted in wide-level contamination by radiation. Many people in Fukushima are still suffering from this damage.

UCL decided to contribute to the recovery of Fukushima and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Fukushima Prefecture in 2014.

How to apply

Students can attend the Q&A session on 24 November for further information about the visit.

To apply please email the below details by 2 December 2017 to Sofia Shamim in UCL’s Global Engagement Office with the subject title “Fukushima Fieldwork and Visit – YOUR NAME”.

  • Your full name
  • Status (staff/Phd student /MSc student) and stage
  • A one-paragraph biography
  • A one-paragraph research or study proposal
  • A one-paragraph impact statement.

Please also indicate:

  • Whether your passport has a visa requirement for entry to Japan
  • If the visit will contribute to your PHD/MSc research or your undergraduate study
  • Your level of Japanese language (although this is not a pre-requisite).

Please note students need to obtain permission from their course organisers.

UCL delegation visit Japan, こんにちは!

By uclqjle, on 19 September 2017

UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur and a delegation from UCL is currently visiting Japan to strengthen collaborations there.

The relationship between UCL and Japan dates back 150 years to the Choshu Five’s arrival at UCL.

The visit, from from 25 September to 5 October, is part of UCL’s long-term commitment to build on historical links through partnerships with leading Japanese institutions and governmental bodies, research collaborations and student exchanges with top universities.

It is also an opportunity to connect with and celebrate our Japan-based alumni.

Non-exhaustive map of UCL collaborations in Japan

Non-exhaustive map of UCL collaborations in Japan

Historical Legacy

After leaving UCL, the Choshu Five went on to become the founding fathers of modern Japan.

Choshu Five

Choshu Five

The Choshu Five included Hirobumi Ito, who became Japan’s first Prime Minister and is otherwise known as ‘the Father of the Japanese Constitution’ and ‘the Father of  parliamentary government in Japan’. The other men were Kaoru Inoue, who became Japan’s first Foreign Minister, also known as ‘the Father of modern Japanese diplomacy’, Yozo Yamao, ‘the Father of Japanese engineering’, Masaru Inoue, ‘the Father of Japanese railways’, and Kinsuke Endo, ‘the Father of the modern Japanese mint’.

Their legacy is still very much celebrated both in the UK and in Japan. In 2013, UCL took part in a high-profile celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the ‘Choshu Five’ in the UK.

The Choshu Five were followed soon after, in 1865, by a second group from Japan. This group of 19, a mix of students and supervisors, mostly came from the Satsuma region, hence their name ‘the Satsuma Group’. Members of this group went on to be successful diplomats, bring in compulsory education for all and founded Japan’s first modern factory.


Satsuma Group


To symbolise this significant history, the Japan Monument stands in the garden next to the South Cloisters at UCL. The names of the Choshu Five and the Satsuma Group are engraved on the granite monument next to a Japanese waka (poem).


Japanese Prime Minister Mr Shinzo Abe & UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur at the Japan Monument during the Prime Minister’s visit to UCL in 2014.


Japan Monument


The inscription on the side of the monument reads,
(Harubaru to kokoro tsudoite hana sakaru)

‘When distant minds come together, cherries blossom’

Current Student Trends

Following in the footsteps of the Choshu Five and the Satsuma group, many Japanese students have studied at UCL.

UCL is the second biggest recruiter of Japanese students in the UK and the number of Japanese students welcomed every year has remained fairly consistent over the past decade. There are currently over 150 students from Japan enrolled at UCL (2016/17).

Japanese Students at UCL by School (2016/17)

In addition to a vibrant and growing UCL Japanese Society, the UCL Japan Club – alumni group for Japan-based alumni –  has established a tight and strong community to keep in touch with friends and generations of UCL alumni.

UCL also hosts the annual UCL-Japan Youth Challenge. Initiated in 2015, this is a special summer school that welcomes pre-university students from the UK and Japan to UCL. The programme consists of various intercultural learning activities and events for both students and teachers from the two countries.

UCL-Japan Youth Challenge

UCL-Japan Youth Challenge

Current activity between UCL & Japan

There is an exciting amount of engagement between UCL and Japan. UCL Global is currently celebrating the iconic history UCL shares with Japan, as well as highlighting a number of contemporary collaborations. To be part of this and to keep up-to-date with our activities in Japan during the visit, follow us on Twitter.

UCL signs MoU with Japanese Prefectural Government

By Kerry Milton, on 23 July 2015

On 16 July, a delegation from Fukushima, Japan, led by Governor Mr Masao Uchibori, visited UCL to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), unique in that it is one of the few agreements UCL has with a local government body.

UCL President and Provost, Professor Michael Arthur and Governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, Mr Masao UchiboriThe MoU will see UCL work with the region in light of the Fukushima Disaster; promoting international exchanges (in both directions) with staff and students, information exchange and explore areas of economy, industry, tourism, culture and sport.

The delegation also met with UCL President and Provost, Michael Arthur and Vice Provost (International) Dame Nicola Brewer, to discuss a range of topics, including Governor Uchibori’s plans for revitalising the Fukushima Prefecture with an ‘Innovation Coast,’ a new research and development hub exploring cutting edge projects in robotics and renewable energy.

UCL is proud of its historical connections with Japan, welcoming Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Choshu 5 arrival last year and 23 July 2015 marks the arrival of the nineteen young students to UCL from Satsuma in 1865.

BASc Programme Director presents at Japanese Symposium

By Kerry Milton, on 21 November 2014

On 20 November 2014, Carl Gombrich, Programme Director for the Arts and Sciences BASc was invited to speak at the ‘Arts and Sciences for Global Leaders’ Symposium in Tokyo.

The event was organised by Hitotsubashi University and the Japan Association of National Universities in order to explore the possibility of liberalising the educational offerings at Hitotsubashi and to discuss the relevance and growing importance of; broad-based liberal arts programmes and interdisciplinarity.

The Symposium, held at Hitotsubashi Hall was well attended with representatives from Japanese government agencies, the financial world and different levels of education among the three-hundred strong audience. Also speaking at the Symposium were Frances Cairncross (Rector, Exeter College, Oxford University), Teisuke Kitayama (Chairman of the Board of the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation) and Tamotsu Aoki (Director General, The National Art Center, Tokyo).

Carl took the opportunity to speak about three distinct areas; openness, complexity, and liberal education where he drew specific examples from the BASc Programme at UCL which is now in its third year. Particularly relevant to the BASc was the talk given by Teisuke Kitayama who discussed the traits that the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation looked for in graduates. Teisuke talked about looking for “pi-shaped graduates”, i.e. those with breadth and two specialisations. A panel discussion featuring the speakers and other academic members of staff from Hitotsubashi University followed, with similar themes discussed, along with more abstract ideas explored in relation to education and more specifically, the liberal arts model.

Summing up, Professor Yamauchi, President of Hitotsubashi University declared the Symposium a success and a starting point for further consideration of the liberal approach and how Hitotsubashi may apply it to their curricula. Professor Yamauchi backed the approach of the BASc, stating that “arts, social sciences and hard sciences need to be combined” and at Hitotsubashi, they would need to find ways to give students the freedom to think creatively.

Japan-UK Universities Conference for Collaboration in Research and Education – Joint Announcement

By Kerry Milton, on 1 May 2014

  1. On 1st May, at University College London, we held the Japan-UK Universities Conference for Collaboration in Research and Education, co-hosted by UCL and the Embassy of Japan in the UK, and in cooperation with the British Council, JSPS (the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) London Office and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. This conference was attended by 14 Japanese universities (Doshisha, Hitotsubashi, Hokkaido, Keio, Kyoto, Kyushu, Nagoya, Osaka, Ritsumeikan, Tohoku, Tokyo, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tsukuba, Waseda) and 16 UK universities (Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Imperial College, King’s College, Leeds, Liverpool, LSE, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Sheffield, UCL, York, Warwick).
  2. This conference was the first attempt to bring together senior-level participants from leading universities in Japan and the United Kingdom, and as well as being an opportunity for the universities to introduce their recent efforts in sessions on Japan-UK cooperation in education and research, there was also active discussion regarding future ways to cooperate in these fields. The conference was also a valuable opportunity to deepen and develop collaboration and cooperation between universities of the two countries, including discussion regarding the construction of a multilateral and multidisciplinary framework of Japanese and UK universities. The conference also held a round-table discussion attended by all participants, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to discuss the importance of collaboration and cooperation, and received understanding and support from the high levels of the Japanese government.
  3. In order to nurture international talent in an increasingly globalised world, the role of Japanese and UK universities in accepting top-calibre international students and providing high level education and research is significant. Further, global innovation is the key to achieving sustained economic growth and prosperity, and as places that produce the basic and fundamental seeds of this innovation, the expectations on universities in Japan and the UK are extremely high. In addition to this, as global issues regarding ageing society, climate change, energy, health, and disaster prevention become more evident, it is the obligation and responsibility of Japanese and UK universities, as universities in fully-developed countries, to take an active role in addressing these issues. We have a shared awareness and understanding of the role of Japanese and UK universities, and their importance, regarding these issues.
  4. During the education session at the conference, we held specific discussions regarding measures to promote the exchange of students and young researchers between Japanese and UK universities, as well as approaches to the curriculum in order to promote international collaboration between universities. During the research session, we also held discussions across a broad spectrum, including measures to further accelerate joint research in a wide range of fields. Discussions were also held on the subject of introducing and utilising a distinctive approach to collaboration between government, industry and academia in the two countries, and regarding measures to promote mutual exchange between staff and researchers at universities in both countries.We sincerely hope that, through the discussions held at this conference, ideas proposed to increase the number of students and researchers exchanged between universities, the creation of a multilateral framework and a joint international curriculum, and agreements to launch new collaborative research will develop into more tangible efforts in the future.
  5. While recognising the importance of the discussions held at this conference, we have agreed to make efforts to hold regular follow-up meetings regarding both research and education in order to continue and develop these areas, with the cooperation of our attending universities and related organisations from both countries. One such idea proposed during the discussions was to hold a follow-up meeting in Tokyo in 2015. The British Council will work with  the relevant universities and organisations, including the Embassy of Japan in the UK and the British Embassy Tokyo, to ensure active follow-up to the discussions here today.

All parties of the Japan-UK Universities Conference for Collaboration in Research and Education, 1 May 2014

Japan-UK Universities Conference for Collaboration in Research and Education – Conference Discussions – Key Points

By Kerry Milton, on 1 May 2014

10.00 – 17.15, Thursday 1 May 2014
Jeremy Bentham Room, University College London

Session 1 – Japan-UK Collaboration in Education – Panel-led Discussion

There were four key themes that emerged from the panel-led discussion on Japan-UK Collaboration in Education. These were:

  1. Current challenges for universities and students
  2. Multilateral collaboration
  3. Collaborative approaches to ageing
  4. Involvement of non-university sectors

1. Current challenges for universities and students

  • Culture – the difficulty in changing the curriculum at universities and the need for a cultural shift at all levels in order to achieve this.
  • Language and unfamiliarity – there is still an evident need to encourage more Japanese study among UK students and improve English study ability among Japanese students. This is turn would help to increase the numbers willing to study abroad in Japan and the UK.
  • Mobility funding – to increase collaboration, greater government funding is required.
  • Student accommodation – the shortage of dormitories for international students and housing issues for incoming researchers in Japan was also raised as a big problem. Japanese universities need government funding to build more dormitories for overseas students and researchers.
  • Credit system – the difficulty of transferring academic credits between universities is a deterrent to potential overseas students. A more systematic approach is required.
  • Academic timetables – problems of term times not matching between Japan and the UK. The lengths of master’s courses in the two countries are also different.

2. Multilateral collaboration

  • Participants agreed that a focus on multilateral programmes – both introducing new ones and expanding current ones (such as RENKEI) – is required.
  • Multilateral agreements would avoid the costs and time associated with making hundreds of bilateral agreements between universities.
  • Japanese and UK universities should also look to collaborative approaches with universities of other countries.

3. Collaborative approach to ageing

  • Ageing was highlighted as one of the key global challenges facing both Japan and the UK.
  • This is an important area where UK and Japan universities really can collaborate, and the question of how we can transfer this challenge to universities is one that must be put to our governments.
  • There is a need for more departmental communication as well as inter-disciplinary interactions between natural and social sciences among Japanese and UK universities on this issue.
  • Important to stress that ageing is just one prominent example of a number of global challenges in which Japan and the UK should be working together.

4. Involvement of non-university sectors

  • It was recognised that, while the focus at the conference was on the roles of universities, cooperation with the government (and local governments) is also vital.
  • Efforts focused on the problem of ageing need government assistance in engaging with non-university and non-industry organisations, such as the NHS.
  • A combined assault and multi-disciplinary approach is needed.

Session 2 – Japan-UK Collaboration in Research – Panel-led Discussion

A number of key points were raised regarding problems, and possible solutions, to develop research collaboration between Japan and the UK, including the four key areas below:

  1. Current challenges for universities and researchers
  2. Administrative staff
  3. Multidisciplinary approaches
  4. Involvement of other Japan-UK foundations

1. Current challenges for universities and researchers

  • Barriers to increasing the number of researchers exchanged between the two countries include a lack of budget at national universities, and reluctance on the part of researchers due to the competitive nature of research overseas.
  • An increase in opportunities for short study visits could be useful preparation for researchers exchanged between Japan and the UK.
  • The importance of going beyond just collaboration was also highlighted – an opportunity for researchers to connect with their local community and culture is also a key part of the experience, and will be beneficial in the long term.

2. Administrative staff

  • In order to develop collaboration in research, greater funding and training for administrative staff is required.
  • As an example, Kyoto University are giving support to administrative staff by sending them overseas to develop their language skills.
  • The British Council are also working on ‘capacity building’ with administration departments of universities to enable them to better assist international researchers.

3. Multidisciplinary approaches

  • A multidisciplinary and multi-sector approach to research is important – including government, industry and academic collaboration, synthesizing natural and social sciences.
  • The importance of strong government relations and involvement were also highlighted as key to forming relationships with universities overseas.
  • One broader idea would be multidisciplinary efforts to tackle the challenges of ageing in Japanese and UK society – this could be a “big idea” for our governments.

4. Involvement of other Japan-UK foundations

  • Organisations such as the Daiwa and Sasakawa Foundations can also play a role in facilitating research collaboration between Japan and the UK.
  • The number of people deciding to study Japanese is increasing again, and there are now efforts to encourage researchers to add a Japanese language element into their non-Japanese related research.
  • Universities should also try to encourage more collaboration between Japan and the UK in wider fields other than research and education, including international development.

Roundtable Discussion

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participated in the roundtable discussion, and outlined the Japanese government’s position on the issues raised during the discussions.

1. Regarding the importance of student exchange between Japan and the UK, and concerns regarding the decrease in Japanese students overseas – in what ways are the Japanese government working to improve this, and how can UK universities help?

  • The Japanese government are very keen to encourage students to study overseas, and offer greater financial support to improve on the current situation.
  • Discussions have been held with Prime Minister David Cameron regarding increasing student exchange between the two countries.
  • The Japanese government are currently analysing the reasons for the decreasing number of Japanese students overseas.
  • Reasons for this could include the fact that Japanese students are more inward-looking than other countries, and the benefits of studying abroad are not fully understood.
  • The Prime Minister also emphasised the need for measures to make it easier for Japanese students to study abroad, such as more reciprocity of study units.
  • To encourage more study abroad, it is also important to make it easier for Japanese graduates to get hired outside of the traditional April intake of graduates.

2. While there are many schemes to promote undergraduate and postgraduate student exchange, what is being done to promote post-doctoral exchange?

  • Agree that it is a challenge for high calibre researchers to be hired post-doctorate.
  • The Japanese government are keen to offer more help to such people, and are working with Japanese companies to understand how best to use people following their doctorates.

3. The challenges of an ageing society face both Japan and the UK. Will there be opportunities for collaboration in this field?

  • This is an issue that Japan have also recently discussed with other countries including Germany, and is an area in which research and collaboration with other countries is vital.
  • There is a need to research ways in which to prolong the time until nursing is required in Japan, and while an ageing society can be seen as a problem, it is also a sign that people are living longer.
  • One challenge is working towards finding ways in which the elderly can continue to contribute to society.
  • The Japanese government are also making efforts to encourage more women to work in Japan, and these are areas in which there has been research and cooperation with the UK.

Agreement signed with Tohoku University, Japan

By Kerry Milton, on 29 November 2013

Agreement signed with Tohoku University, Japan

Professor Michael Arthur, President and Provost, has signed a new institutional agreement with Susumu Satomi, President of Tohoku University, one of Japan’s top universities. The ceremony was also attended by His Excellency Keiichi Hayashi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan and other representatives of the university.

Tohoku shares a common mission with UCL in that it has been committed to an ‘Open Door’ policy since its foundation – it was the first Japanese university to admit female students for instance. It is an outward looking university that is internationally recognised for its outstanding standards in education and research.

The university is located in Sendai City and was severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. In response, Tohoku University has launched the Institute for Disaster Reconstruction and Regeneration Research and has constructed over 180 projects. These include seven large scale projects such as the establishment of International Research Projects on Disaster Science and the implementation of the Tohoku Medical Bank Program.

The initial focus of the collaboration will be on life science, materials science and disaster science. UCL and Tohoku University will also explore opportunities in other fields based on mutual interests.