It was March 2012 when I was invited to the Japanese-French Frontiers of Science symposium (JFFoS) for the first time. Since I had no knowledge of the FoS program at the time, I asked my acquaintance of researcher about it and he said, “I myself have never participated in the symposium, but I heard it is interesting.” It was not true whether I did not doubt the comment given by the person who had never attended the symposium. Nevertheless, the single phrase “it seems interesting” made me decide to participate it.
Even after I had made such a lighthearted decision of participate, I had some initial anxiety at the beginning. Prior to this, I had solely participated in academic societies where researchers in the same field convene. I suppose I was not the only person who was unsure if researchers in quite different fields could talk about their studies and comprehend each other’s work. However, I immediately realized that such an anxiety was useless after I actually joined it. To be honest, I do not have an especially wide-ranged view. Besides, I am not good at talking to people. I often become nervous and my voice trembles when I stand before an audience at the academic society annual conference even though I am a regular participant of it. Curiously, however, once the symposium had started, I was captured by the unique atmosphere of the FoS symposium. Before long, I found myself drawn into the talks of other researchers who study very different diverse areas.
As equally as the JFFoS sessions, the thing I felt attractive was the time spent together with about 80 researchers of different nationalities and diverse expertise for three days from breakfast until just before bedtime. On the one hand, sessions should be played in real earnest. On the other hand, we also found time to discuss about the differences in culture, research environment or education system of each other. There was also a conversation on hobbies other than researches. In addition, one French researcher told us passionately about the importance of eating delicious food (he likes eating sushi very much). It would be one of the uniqueness of the FoS symposium that we can foster the ties with researchers that goes beyond the boundaries of disciplines through such valuable time and experience.
I participated as a speaker in the 7th JFFoS symposium in January 2013, and then appointed to serve a Planning Group Member (PGM) in the 8th and the 9th JFFoS symposium. One of the important missions of PGM is to select session topics. It was, at least for me, quite a hard work.
Not only topics are required to address hot issues, but also it must have appealing contents to attract the audience. It is also important that there are candidate researchers who are competent to fulfill the roles of a chair or speakers on both the Japanese and the French sides. Moreover, each PGM must cover wide ranges of topics even though sessions in the JFFoS symposium are subdivided into 7 areas (8 areas until the 7th JFFoS).
PGMs should make presentation on proposed themes from the finalized list and vote for selection. They are very serious about the procedure because a session would not obtain success if its theme failed to gain the support at this point. Of course I had to spend a lot of time to prepare for this task. If I had not been offered such occasion, I would never research so extensively on the study areas that were separated from my specialty. For me, bearing a PGM responsibility was a valuable opportunity to understand objectively the importance of different fields.
Currently, the Japanese university researchers are often exhausted because they are occupied with many duties other than research and education. They do utmost to produce results at a fraction of time and sometimes end up being confined to the shell that has been subdivided into ‘disciplines’. When I find myself in such a state, I often think about the time I enjoyed at the JFFoS symposia. Whenever I recall the leading researchers talking about their work with their eyes shining like children full of curiosity, I become aware of the importance of ‘enjoying’ research activities.
The JFFoS symposium, in a nutshell, was the most valuable event I have participated so far in terms of containing ‘dreams’. I hope therefore the same opportunity of participation will be offered to the young generation of researchers in years to come.
Finally, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the members of the JSPS FoS Advisory Board and the staff members in charge of the FoS symposium in the JSPS Research Cooperation Division. I am indebted all of them for the three years of my participation.