Greeting from the JSDB president 2015
In January of this year, I assumed the President of the Japanese Society of Developmental Biologists. I should have addressed you at the beginning of this year, but instead, as we have welcomed new committee members, I would like to address some policy issues based on the reports and discussions at the recent Steering Committee meeting held on January 31.
In formal terms, one of important mission an academic society is to support individual members' research. Its also fosters the exchange of ideas and information, and facilitate intermingling of people through the annual meeting, the publication of an academic journal and other relevant activities. But while these activities serve as a foundation, I think it is essential that the starting point is that individual members enjoy their own science.
As a self-introduction, I would like to tell you about what led me to become a member of the Japanese Society of Developmental Biologists. I was trained as a biochemist within the field of agricultural chemistry, and I had almost no knowledge of embryology. In my post-doctoral studies, I was engaged in the isolation and structural characterization of hormones and cellular growth factors, in a field known as neuroendocrinology, and my research had no direct connection to embryology. However, the 1980s I witnessed a series of discoveries about molecular as well as genetic control of development, and these began to suggest the possibility that the groups of proteins that, up to that time, were thought to regulate endocrine hormone secretions and/or cell proliferation also controls developmental processes. It was only at the very end of my post-doctoral studies that I at last began to take an interest in developmental biology. All of the previous developmental biology works described in textbooks and essay of developmental biologists I learned at that time struck me, and I was shamed that I had not realized that such an interesting field of research existed. I felt that developmental biology was an exciting field that includes many important but unsolved problems which are needed to be addressed integrating all of the various academic disciplines and technologies. That conviction remains unchanged today. In fact, I am even more convinced that developmental biology should be studied in an interdisciplinary manner.
However, looking back on the 10 years since I became a member of JSDB, when I now ask myself the question "Are you enjoying science?" it is difficult to immediately answer "Yes!". This may be because I may be too much fret about performance evaluations based on publications and the struggle to obtain research funding, despite that both are essential part of science. Even though the reasons may be many and varied, I assume that there are no few JSDB members feel the same way, and suppose the same trend exists in other countries. We need to revert this trend and we are to push ourselves to enable researchers to be "real researchers" again.
At the recent board meeting , we heard a report that although the number of regular JSDB members has remained roughly the same, that of student members has been gradually declining. ,As young people are essential to preserve the vitality of the society, this is a matter of great concern. Some board members have pointed out that the overall number of graduate students has been declining, and that the number of research groups in developmental biology is also declining and so on. Such nationwide problems may be difficult for us to overcome by ourselves, but I would like to consider one more possible reason, which is that we ourselves may have not done a good enough job in attracting young people to developmental biology. If we ourselves are not captivated by science, then surely it will be impossible for us to get students to sense its appeal.
The Association is actively working to communicate the appeal and importance of developmental biology by holding workshops for high school science teachers and delivering lectures to junior/high school, and by offering digital images on our website and so on. I think it is crucial to do this not just for accountability or as an obligation to contribute to society but, regardless of what form it takes, to communicate that we scientists are enjoying developmental biology and to get young people to sense that. On the other hand, it will not be possible to preserve the quality of the discipline with only "enjoyment" and "appeal." Critical questions in the session at meetings and friendly competition are also an important tradition of this society.
Now, I would like to call on all members to work together to make JSDB a place that once again fosters a culture in which people are able to enjoy science in an intense atmosphere. We board members share this objective and will ensure that this will happen gradually. I invite you to see the changes in the annual meeting to be held this year in Tsukuba (Hiroshi Wada, Chair), the annual meeting to be held next year in Kumamoto (Akira Nakamura, Chair), and the following meetings. In addition, thanks to the cooperation of many of our members, we have provided the "Summer Symposium" and "Autumn Symposium" as places for young researcher organized in different format from the annual meetings. For these events as well, we will look back on our original objectives and reconsider how these events should be held to stimulate young members more efficiently.
There are now calls for the promotion of globalization at universities and other educational and research institutions. By the initiative of the past president of JSDB Shinichi Aizawa who recognized the importance of globalization earlier, we started to promote the interaction with overseas developmental societies more actively and at the same time, we introduced English as a common language for annual meetings. The immediate past president, Kiyokazu continued and expanded these efforts and so far, we have organized binational joint meetings with several foreign countries such as UK and France. Some JSDB members were positive but others were not, particularly about holding our annual meetings in English. However, I think it is because of these pioneering efforts that JSDB today is recognized as one of leading academic societies that is open to the international community and I will inherit the initiatives of our past presidents. I think that globalization is of crucial importance, not to catch up with Europe and the United States, but rather to show the unique ideas and approaches of the developmental biology in Japan to other countries. I plan to continue to pursue globalization while considering the real advantages to our members. From September 11th through the 14th of this year, the Asia-Pacific Developmental Biology Network (APDBN), which JSDB played a major role in establishing, will hold a meeting in China (Xian). Details will be posted on our website in the near future, and I hope that many members will attend.
Last year, we received a generous contribution from Dr. Tokindo Okada, the past president (1979 - 1982), for the purpose of "training researchers with a global perspective who will be the future of developmental biology." Through the tireless efforts of former president Agata, we recently set the rules for the operation of the "Tokindo Okada Fund". We would like to invite applications from all young researchers who are thinking of presenting at overseas meetings, and from people who are thinking of inviting researchers from other countries to stimulate young researchers in Japan.
Dr. Harukazu Nakamura will continue to be the editor in chief of our journal, Development Growth & Differentiation. At the end of last year, we renewed our contract with Wiley-Blackwell for four more years (through the end of December 2018). As we reported in the general assembly last year, the major change is that we have discontinued the printed version and made it an online only journal, which will enable a major reduction in printing expenses. I am afraid that this will be less convenient for members who have been looking forward to the arrival of each printed version, but I hope to make it up to you with the information that is disseminated by other means. I would also like to invite you to actively submit papers for publication in DGD.
Finally, information sharing is essential to link the JSDB leadership with the members. Up to now, the general assembly that is held once each year at the annual meeting has been the main occasion for reporting the JSDB's activities, and email announcements were only issued on an irregular basis. From now on, we plan to send email news regularly, once a month, so members will have better access to important announcements.
February 2, 2015