Reflections of the Japan SciCom Forum 2022
With over 300 registered participants both domestically and internationally, the Japan SciCom Forum (JSF) held its fourth annual conference on October 21, 2022. JSF is an organization that focuses on English-based science communication within Japan. The goal is to build a network and professional identity of science communicators, share knowledge, highlight best practices and new tools of English-based science communication, and uplift international initiatives of Japanese higher education and research institutions. This year, the conference was hosted by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST). It was shaped around 28 experts from various fields of science communication, who each brought their unique insights and expertise to the table. The opening of the Falling Walls Engage Hub Japan was also celebrated, which will bring together Japanese and international perspectives on science communication and engagement.
At the start of this year’s JSF Conference, the new JSF logo, designed by graphic designer Kaori Serakaki, was introduced. The logo represents both the importance of collaboration and the importance of diversity, shown through the four human figures. Without each human figure, the logo would not form – indicative of the value of diversity and inclusion throughout the JSF organization. This reflects the overarching goal of bringing together a diverse community of science communicators in Japan.
One of the main themes of this conference was the importance of relationships, such as those between science communicators, researchers, politicians, and the public. With the COVID-19 pandemic nearing the end of its third year, social gatherings and events have evolved. Office spaces have adapted, and conferences are able to meet new targets that were not envisioned in pre-COVID times. Although the JSF organizing team initially anticipated an in-person conference for 2022, it was moved online for the second time to meet the country’s COVID restrictions. One way we tried to address the lack of in-person interactions was by adding a networking session using Gather Town. We collaborated with The Future of Meetings who created a traditional Japanese space online for members to connect and discuss while eating lunch.
Screenshot of Gather Town (Courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Tasker).
Building a relationship with people who do not identify as scientists is key, especially when addressing science during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Massimiano Bucchi, the keynote speaker of this year’s annual conference, commented on the roles and responsibilities of different fields observed at the beginning of pandemic to a couple of months in. In Italy, his team noticed how the public did not know the existence of various platforms available to them that was compiling information on the ongoing pandemic. This, along with other observations he shared during the keynote, was indicative of how the researchers who provided health-related information prior to the pandemic were not engaging with the public enough.
The topic of engagement was how we wrapped up the JSF 2022 conference, where five panelists from diverse backgrounds discussed their perspectives and experiences on the challenges and best practices of science engagement. As one of the panelists discussed, science engagement is a long-term commitment, and it should not start because a crisis has emerged. It should be an on-going responsibility that science communicators and those alike engage in to build the necessary relationships regardless of the situation at hand.
On a personal note, this was my second time being part of the organization team of the Japan SciCom Forum. Last year I was exposed to various science communicators from different parts of Japan. As someone who did not interact daily with science communicators in an English-based environment, it was a new challenge that revealed that my academic path – as a graduate student and in a couple of years time, post-graduate – should not be the straight and one-way path that I had imagined. Science communication was not initially part of my intended studies yet interacting in a diverse and inclusive environment, such as the one provided by JSF, has allowed me to envision a future that integrates both my passions in biochemistry and science communication. I am not sure what that will look like, but I know that being connected with the individuals that attended the JSF 2022 Conference, who were each filled with a passion and drive for science communication, will give me hints to how I can shape my future career.
On behalf of the 2022 JSF organization team, I would like to show appreciation and gratitude to our sponsors, speakers, and host for their help and expertise to run a successful conference.
JSF 2022 organizers.