JSPS Quarterly
No.34 2010 Winter Topics

JSPS's Scientific Outreach

In 2009, a Government Revitalization Unit was set up to review and, where appropriate, make budgetary reductions to  government-funded programs and operations. The state of Japan’s science and technology and of ways to enhance it were subject to this review. The process spotlighted the need to cultivate public awareness as to the importance of scientific research. Much of the research conducted in Japan is supported by funding from the national treasury, so it requires public support and understanding to be advanced successfully. To that end, research organizations and individual researchers will need even more than before to convey information on their research undertakings and results to the public. In short, greater outreach efforts will be expected of them.

JSPS’s mission is to advance scientific research. Whereas JSPS carries out a wide range of research-support activities, it was several years ago that it recognized the importance of outreach activities to disseminate information on research and its results to society. For this purpose, JSPS has introduced outreach activities targeted to younger generations of Japanese into its program lineup. Centerpieced among them are the “Science Dialogue Program” and the program “Welcome to a University Research Lab―Science That Inspires and Inspirits (HIRAMEKI☆TOKIMEKI SCIENCE).” These programs not only support outreach activities conducted by researchers but also serve to foster from an early age young researchers who will go on to pioneer new scientific frontiers.

Science Dialogue

This program provides JSPS fellows with opportunities to give lectures on their research work at high schools in the vicinity of their Japanese host institutions. These talented young scientists from around the world volunteer to participate in this program. Their lectures, given in English about their research and home countries, stimulate the students to study science by kindling within them an interest in research, while giving them widened international perspectives.

At the same time, the program gives the JSPS fellows an opportunity to interact with the local community and strengthen their ties with the Japanese people. Afterwards, the fellows say that they enjoyed the chance it gave them to share their research and zest for the work with Japanese students and to act as representatives of their countries in introducing the students to their cultures and societies.

Highly appraised by fellows, students and teachers alike, the Science Dialogue Program has from its establishment in FY 2004 received increasingly more requests each year from high schools for lectures. Altogether, 340 lectures have been held through March 2010.

JSPS continuously recruits both fellows and high school faculties who would like to participate in the Science Dialogue Program. For more detailed information on the program, please visit its website at http://www.jsps.go.jp/english/e-plaza/e-sdialogue/.

The Science Dialogue lectures conducted during the period from July through September 2010 are introduced on pages 12-13.

Lecturer’s Comment

Dr. Md. Shamim Akhter
(Host institution: Research Organization of Information and Systems)
Lecture at Kumamoto Prefectural Daini High School
On 14 September 2010

Lecture at Kumamoto Prefectural Daini High School

As a JSPS fellow, I took part in the Science Dialogue Program and presented a one-hour lecture to first- and third-grade students at Kumamoto Prefectural Daini High School. It was really a great experience and reminded me of my own school days in Bangladesh. I was very happy to visit such a nice high school and felt good to have the opportunity to introduce my country and research to the younger generation of Japanese.

In my lecture, I described my country Bangladesh, its culture, national symbols, attractions, and my home institute American International University Bangladesh. I also explained my research on “helping agriculture activities using information technologies and remote sensing” among other topics I’m working on. I concluded by introducing my family in Japan.

The class atmosphere was friendly and students were eager to learn. At the very beginning, I told the students that they were free to ask me questions at any time during the lecture—that I’d be happy to pause if they felt confusion or curiosity about anything. I took breaks from time to time and asked the students questions to verify whether they were on the right track.

At the start of my lecture, the students were a bit shy about asking questions, but warmed up quickly as I interacted with them. I had asked my Japanese colleague Mr. Fujiwara to accompany me as a translator. Sometimes when I asked questions in English, the students would struggle to understand and looked perplexed. When Mr. Fujiwara translated them, they would suddenly be all smiles!

The students asked me several questions, especially regarding satellite images, agri-crop models, and genetic algorithms. I was a bit surprised at the level of some of their questions on satellite image processing, resolution, and color combinations. I learned later that they had visited the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) a few weeks prior, where they had done a good job learning about satellite imaging.

In truth, I found it relatively difficult to give a speech in front of people who have little knowledge about my research subject, especially as it involves a lot of scientific terms and technical details. This lecture helped me to improve my presentation skills when communicating with such people. For it, I prepared slides with informative pictures rather than texts, spoke slowly, and focused on a global view of the research rather than on methodological matters. I can now make my presentations simpler yet still informative when the need arises to do so in the future. All in all, my Science Dialogue experience proved fulfilling in a variety of ways.

Teacher’s Comment

Ms. Kyoko Yamamura
Shizuoka Prefectural Iwata Minami High School

With JSPS’s cooperation, our school has been participating in the Science Dialogue Program since FY 2005. During this period, I have been in charge of implementing the program over the past three years. I’ve felt that the typical response of ordinary Japanese to communicating with people of other countries is: Foreigner→English→Can’t understand→Can’t talk→Maintain respectful distance. As I science teacher myself, observing the natural manner in which the Science Dialogue lecturers conducted their sessions, it has become painfully clear to me that smooth scientific exchange is not possible without an ability to speak English. Nevertheless, I find myself shamelessly relying upon audacity when trying to communicate with the lecturers using what I’m sure must be very awkward English. I believe, however, that the students seeing me plugging away with English encourages them to use English without feeling bashful.

From my experience with this program, I believe that there are three particularly significant merits to students receiving lectures directly from overseas researchers. First, it makes the students aware that scientific research is advanced through international exchange. Next, the students can see that researchers speak and communicate in various dialects of English, not only in the kind of native English they are used to hearing in the classroom. Last, the sense of uneasiness that students feel when not being able to understand everything spoken by the lecturer can spur them to study English more diligently.

Among the impressions voiced by the students after the lectures, most said that they were able to understand them because the lecturers were kind enough to speak slowly and use many diagrams, pictures and samples. After each time a lecture has been given, virtually all of the students felt an urgent need to learn English. Some have even said they wish such courses as math and physics could be taught in English.

Given its many benefits, our school looks forward to continue taking advantage of the Science Dialogue Program in the future as well.

Welcome to a University Research Lab―Science That Inspires and Inspirits

Launched in FY 2005, this program is aimed at today’s students who will become tomorrow’s scientists. Under it, university researchers who are carrying out projects with Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research explain their work and its results in an easily understood manner to groups of mainly secondary school students who visit their labs. By providing an opportunity for the students to learn about the meaning of science and the role it plays in their daily lives, the program seeks to stimulate intellectual curiosity and creativity in them. It also demonstrates to them the value of science within both culture and society―the program’s ultimate aim being to promote multigenerationally sustained advancement of scientific endeavor in Japan.

The program’s steering committee selects the lecture providers from among openly recruited applicants. The program, itself, is carried out collaboratively between JSPS and the implementing universities. In the 2010 fiscal year, 205 lectures have or will be held at 120 universities and research institutions.

Universities throughout Japan prepare their own uniquely tailored lecture programs, to which interested students in the local area are invited to attend. For more information on this program, see http://www.jsps.go.jp/hirameki/.

Lecture Examples

Lecture at Hokkaido University
By Dr. Yoichiro Hoshino (assistant professor in Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere)
On 31 July 2010

Lecture at Hokkaido University

Conducted on a farm run by Hokkaido University, 26 junior high school students attended this interactive lecture on the selective breeding of berries. To give the students a sense of the various kinds of berries, they first gathered blueberries, bearberry honeysuckles, raspberries, black currants and other berries. From this exercise, they learned that there are a wide variety of berries and that each tastes differently. They were also able to actually see berries growing on the bush whose names, like currant, they had only known.

Next, the students performed an experiment to cross-fertilize raspberries and blackberries. The new variety of berries they hybridized where put into pollination bags with the students’ names on them and later mailed to their homes.

Last on the agenda, the latest technologies used in the selective breeding of plants were introduced to the students via a video and slide presentation. Afterwards, the students observed in the lab pollen germination to give them an understanding of the fertilization process and, then, performed an experiment in the field to measure the sugar content and pH of fruits.

Lecture at Tokai University
By Dr. Kunio Kutsuwada (professor in School of Marine Science and Technology)
On 3 October 2010

Lecture at Tokai University

A workshop was conducted aboard the ship Bousei Maru, attended by 22 junior high school students and 13 accompanying parents and teachers. Experiments were carried out to answer such questions as why the sea is blue and salty. Using a variety of instruments on board the ship, such mysteries of the sea were explored by analyzing and observing samples taken from the water.

The activity started by showing the students the ship’s pilothouse, engine room, and the instruments used in conducting oceanographic experiments. Next, experiments were conducted together with the students. The temperature of the seawater was taken and its salt content measured. Sea currents were studied using a tub, and water pressure was observed by deformation of styrofoam cups and cans lowered to various depths. Then, plankton was collected using a specially designed net and the captured specimens examined under a microscope. Lastly, the data obtained through these measurements and observations were compiled, and the students entered them in the textbooks they had been given.

page top

JSPS Quarterly No.34 2010