HOPE Meetings

2nd HOPE Meeting Overview

Date: September 27 - October 1, 2009
Main Venue: The Prince Hakone (Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture)
Theme: Art in Science
Subjected Field: Chemistry and related fields including Physics and Biology
Organizer: Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

The second HOPE Meeting was held in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, from 28 through 30 September. Its organization committee was chaired by Dr. Ryoji Noyori. Seven Nobel laureates were invited to address the meeting, which assembled 100 young researchers and doctoral students from 14 countries and regions of the Asia Pacific. Vigorous interaction and discussion was enjoyed over the course of the event.

On the first day of the meeting, Dr. Noyori (2001 Nobel laureate in chemistry) gave a keynote lecture entitled “Chemistry: The Key to Our Future,” in which he described how he aspired as a child to become a scientist, emphasizing to the young researchers the importance of embracing aspiration and resolve. From the vantage point of his having received the Nobel Prize for his research on chirally catalysed hydrogenation, he spoke about the future of chemistry, the relationship between art and science, and what will be expected of scientists in the 21st century.

Also delivering lectures at the meeting were Dr. Peter Agre (2003 Nobel laureate in chemistry), Dr. Leo Esaki (1973 Nobel laureate in physics), Dr. Makoto Kobayashi (2008 Nobel laureate in physics), Dr. Yuan Tseh Lee (1986 Nobel laureate in chemistry), Dr. Koichi Tanaka (2002 Nobel laureate in chemistry), Dr. Susumu Tonegawa (1987 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine), and Dr. Svante Lindqvist (president, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciencce; director, Nobel Museum).

They also led discussions among the young researchers, who split up into smaller groups, and fielded volleys of questions from them of not only a specialized nature but also about how to choose creative research topics and how to build career paths. Spirited exchanges of views were also enjoyed on issues related to young researcher development in each of the participating countries.

To elaborate the theme “Art in Science,” chosen by Organizing Committee chair Dr. Noyori, a piano concert was held along with a demonstration of the traditional Japanese performance art, kibi-gaku (music and dance). A video presentation was given by the world-renowned architect Mr. Tadao Ando, who portrayed a vision of an urban environment in harmony with nature, and a lecture by Mr. Shuji Takashina, former director of the National Museum of Western Art, who used slides to show differences in and mutual influences between Western and Japanese paintings. These components of the program were meant to convey to the young researchers the importance of refined sensibilities in scientific pursuits.

In a poster session, the participants talked about their own research activities and engaged in lively discussions. The participants also divided up into 12 groups, each comprising a variety of countries and fields, and prepared their presentations. In advance of the meeting, they had received their group assignments and group member lists, which they used to hold pre-meeting discussions over FaceBook. During the limited time of the meeting, they used their free time, including wee hours of the night, to advance their discussions and prepare and practice their presentations. This joint endeavor gave the participants a unique opportunity to manage a team of researchers with diverse backgrounds and fields of specialization. At the presentation session, the participant groups addressed an array of topics from future scientific issues to environmental and other problems facing humankind. At the closing ceremony, prizes and mementos were given for the best presentations and posters.

Compared to the first HOPE Meeting, this second one saw an increase in the number of Nobel laureates from 5 to 7 and of young participants from 81 to 100. Endorsing the purpose of the meeting, many of JSPS’s overseas partner agencies supported the international travel of participants from their countries to the venue. Over the three days of the event, the young researchers engaged both the Nobel laureates and each other in energetic exchanges of views. It is hoped that their participation in the meeting will have been a leapfrog step along their paths to becoming leaders in their fields and that the networks they formed among themselves will serve as cornerstones upon which to build a vibrant science and technology community within the Asia-Pacific region.