Professor Takashi Inoguchi (Director and Professor, Institute of Asian Cultures, J. F. Oberlin University, Tokyo) won the 2021 Helen Dinerman Award from the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) in November 2021. The Helen Dinerman Award, given from WAPOR since 1981, honours particularly significant contributions to survey research methodology. Past recipients include world-renowned scholars such as the statistician Louis Guttman, the sociologist Robert K. Merton and political scientist Ronald Inglehart among others. Professor Inoguchi is the first ever Japanese scholar to have won the award. Professor Inoguchi talks about the meaning of the award, the importance of achieving societal impact through his research, and the best ways he communicates his work as an author. The interview was conducted by Juno Kawakami, editor of economics, business, political science and law books at Springer.
© Takashi Inoguchi
Two major reasons for receiving the Helen Dinerman Award were stated in the nominator's letter for justification. These are that my work is: 1) “methodologically innovative, especially his two latest projects on quality of life in 32 Asian societies and on multilateral treaty participation by 193 sovereign states”, and is 2) “substantively challenging not only folklore narratives but also Western-dominated public opinion data analysis in both quality of life in Asia and in multilateral treaty participation (1945–2019)”. One more auxiliary reason cited is that my contributions have been widely acknowledged beyond academia: “The International Association of Professionals (IAOP) named him Top Professor of the Year in Political Science for 2019”. Also, the Marquis' WHO's Who bestowed upon him the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
The news on my receiving the Helen Dinerman Award reached me in early November 2021. At that time, I was correcting the galley proofs for a small essay of mine meant to be a contribution to Gakushikaiho (The National Universities' Alumni magazine in Japan). With permission of the magazine, I attached a copy of the Helen Dinerman Award conferred on me. In this essay I told readers that I had experienced “Waiting for Godot” for two decades twice in my life. I wanted to get what in the US would be called a National Science Foundation grant. I waited for two decades, all in vain. No good news reached me. It all ended in disappointment in February 2005. I retired from the University of Tokyo in March 2005. But the grant did come. Without any team or team members, I received the grant in 2005 but began to carry out the research project. Then my dreadful thought was that writing book manuscripts and publications based on the surveys in 32 Asian societies would take another two decades. Rather, it ended with the good news with the Helen Dinerman Award.
I have personally met seven past winners of the Helen Dinerman Award and learned a lot from them. The impact of the Award is significant, as it recognizes contributions in broad-based academic disciplines ranging from business and management, marketing research, economics, mass media, statistics, information science, AI, clinical medicine, nursing, aging care, and other areas. WAPOR also conducts an annual conference with the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research, involving professionals in opinion polling. In addition, together with Gallup International and involving the top polling firms in each country, WAPOR conducts an annual global survey of the most significant event of the year. These endeavors have enhanced WAPOR’s importance and trustability. I am humbled, as I know that my research builds on such a legacy of research. I hope to continue positive research that I can share with future generations. In Japan, I have learned a great deal from the late Professor Chikio Hayashi (7th Director of The Institute of Statistical Mathematics) and the late Professor Hajime Ikeuchi (Former Director of the Shimbun Kenkyujo [Newspaper Research Institute]). I have simultaneously learned many things from my co-authors and colleagues including Professor Doh Chull Shin, Professor Seiji Fujii, Professor Yasuharu Tokuda, and Dr. Le Thi Quynh Lien.
The era of uncertainty, complexity, and unpredictability has been with us for some time due in part to great climate change and to infectious disease diffusion. It has created the unfortunate atmosphere in which people have been extremely isolated and unduly lonely, thus more susceptible to fake news and blatant lies. My answer is to encourage evidence-based thinking, training, and research. My own practice and writings attest to its importance. When no one dares to carefully measure when multilateral treaties are promulgated and ratified with their differences covering as many as 600 such treaties, we have found that these data are one of the keys to deciphering sovereign states' digitized statecraft (Takashi Inoguchi and Lien Le Thio Quynh Le, 2021). When Westerners publish their journal articles on the basis of their testing psychology-focused undergraduate students, these articles occupy some 80% of those first-rate Western journals. While it is known widely that Asians think differently watching forests from Westerners focusing on trees (Richard Nisbett, 2004), Asians have not been well represented in their sample subjects. Our quality of life in Asia research (Inoguchi and Fujii, 2013; and Inoguchi, 2017) have focused on Asians and compared them to Westerners.
It is not an easy question to answer. Seeking societal impacts themselves is not normally in my mind. As an academic, I make the greatest endeavor possible to unveil what is unknown truth in a scientific fashion. To enhance societal impacts as an academic, it is very important to publish your best works with excellent publishers in the first place. That is not so easy to carry out successfully.
There are always many varieties of communicating my research to that audience. Which are most effective and how does one’s research reach the intended audience? That is often difficult to know beforehand. Only through good interactions and many experiences can one know some of them. As a matter of fact, my writing style perhaps somehow makes other academics’ recognition more difficult to have my many works cited more frequently (perhaps resulting, e.g., in registering a lower h-index) and my preference for thinking alone and not being a frequent participant in many seminars and conferences (perhaps resulting, e.g., in registering a higher i10-index) contributes to that. But I know my strengths reasonably well. My curiosity has been kept strong for more than half a century on many subjects, and my persistence and perseverance have not changed much despite occasional tumultuous times visiting me like war, earthquake, and fire.
This question is somewhat difficult to answer. Societal impact often comes as a result of a good mix of your strengths and weaknesses. When societal impacts are manifested, I would love to think that they are the result of 95% fortune and 5% virtue as far as I am concerned.
The World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) awarded the Helen Dinerman Award to Professor Takashi Inoguchi at the award ceremony held in Casablanca, Morocco, in November 2021. (Award Ceremony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp2H_jJhmy8)
The overall merits resulting from the following works by Professor Inoguchi were considered by the committee:
Inoguchi investigated quality of life (QOL) in 32 Asian countries. He and his colleagues conducted large-scale interviews of over 60,000 people in 32 countries, using 35 different languages in Asia. This large-scale research on QOL in Asia is the first of its kind. The results showed Asian perspectives that are not necessarily the same as the perspectives of Westerners. Inoguchi and his colleagues further compared the data in Asia and the US. The following books summarize their findings.
Professor Takashi Inoguchi and Dr. Lien Thi Quynh Le, co-Directors of the Multilateral Treat Participation Survey Project, have conducted research on the multilateral treaties of 193 sovereign states following World War II (he examined the period between 1945 and 2019). They analyzed 600 multilateral treaties deposited in the UN, conceptualizing them as a bundle of quasi-social contracts by 193 sovereign states. They used evidence-based analysis, a method not previously employed in international political studies or international law. The following books summarize their findings.
A full spectrum of Professor Inoguchi’s works can be found at this site which is available in both English and Japanese:
Professor Inoguchi serves as series editor for the following Springer Nature book series: