To the Members of the MBSJ
As the end draws near on 2014, an especially eventful year, this will be my final message as president of the Molecular Biology Society of Japan (MBSJ).
Professor Shigeo Koyasu served as president of the 37th MBSJ Annual Meeting, which was held at the end of November at Pacifico Yokohama. Though the meeting was shorter than usual at only three days, attendance was impressive with 7,565 participants. I thank everyone for the huge turnout. This year marked the resurrection of the discusser system used at poster sessions when Professor Yuji Kohara spearheaded the 32nd MBSJ annual meeting in 2009. Many senior professors attended, and participated in the poster sessions. I was especially happy to see the ensuing lively debates on science. I myself, in collaboration with the Yokohama City Board of Education, had the opportunity to be involved in production of the Science & Art program.
Though I already mentioned the following points at the general meeting, I would like to take this opportunity to recap MBSJ activities during my time as president.
First, I'd like to elaborate on the new membership system, which includes two new classes of members. We established a senior membership option for regular members that have retired, for whom the annual membership fee will be reduced to ¥3,000, the same as for student members, and the annual meeting admission fee will be waived. It is our hope that this new system will spur increased participation in MBSJ activities. We also established a next-generation education membership option aimed at faculty involved in primary and secondary education. For them, the annual membership fee will remain the same ¥6,500 as for regular members, but as with the senior members, we waive the admissions fee because we want to encourage their participation in the annual meeting in the hope that they can convey information about leading-edge life science research, and the atmosphere of the meeting, to the next-generation of students.
Also, the Gender Equality Committee was constructively reorganized into the Career Path Committee, which under the superb leadership of chairperson Mikiko Shiomi, has been exceedingly proactive. Among the efforts of the Career Path Committee are extraction and independent analysis of data from MBSJ members (2,448 responders) that participated in the Japan Inter-Society Liaison Association Committee for Promoting Equal Participation of Men and Women in Science and Engineering (EPMEWSE) large-scale survey (total of 16,314 responders). This was then compiled into the Third MBSJ Report on Actual Conditions of Gender Equality(Japanese only), which led to creation of “Aiming for Promotion of Greater Gender Equality: Petition for Leadership Training of Women Researchers, and Establishment of Accommodative Environment for Key Life Events(Japanese only)”. Chairperson Shiomi and I presented the document to two key officials from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology (MEXT): Science and Technology Policy Bureau Director-General Nobuaki Kawakami and Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau Director-General Junko Kawamura. We subsequently had a frank discussion with both MEXT officials on issues related to career paths and gender equality for life science researchers. It is my hope that this will eventually lead to implementation of relevant policy measures.
Lastly, I would like to address research ethics-related issues, a crucial concern that carried over from the previous MBSJ president's term. It is noteworthy that last year's annual meeting included six sessions of a research ethics forum(Japanese only), the full transcripts of which we posted on the MBSJ homepage in April. There was much confusion due to subsequent scientific misconduct regarding controversial papers that became widely publicized (Please refer to the previous President's message for details about MBSJ's responses, such as statements on our official position). Other cases of scientific misconduct also emerged, leading to MEXT guidelines on research misconduct (http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/houdou/26/08/1351568.htm (Japanese only)) that were adopted on August 26, and are slated for implementation from next April. Essentially, we have entered a new phase on the issue of research ethics. The guidelines lay out the responsibilities of not only individual researchers, but also research organizations. We believe universities and other research organizations are already reviewing their compliance with the guidelines, and I think the next MBSJ president, executive officers, and committee members will need to consider actions to ensure research integrity.
Going forward, it will become increasingly important for MBSJ to engage the public in a dialogue; when I became the 18th president, bioethics was an issue I had considered worthy of tackling. It is now possible to produce germ cells from pluripotent stem cells, such as iPS cells, and to more easily produce genetically modified organisms using genomic editing techniques such as the CRISPR/Cas9 system. Life scientists need to incorporate ethics into their research, and have an obligation to communicate to the public any inherent risks of that research.
Professor Hiroyuki Araki will take the helm as MBSJ President from next year. We have already scheduled the next two annual meetings. The 38th annual meeting (2015) will be held at Kobe Port Island with Ryoichiro Kageyama serving as meeting president, while the 39th meeting (2016) will be hosted in Yokohama headed up by Hidenori Ichijo. I am deeply indebted to all the people that have supported me during my two-year stint as MBSJ president, including the directors, auditors, committee members, and the secretariat. As the 18th MBSJ president's term nears its end, I am both deeply grateful to the people that supported me, and also look forward to a new beginning for MBSJ with the start of the 19th president's term. I conclude my last message with high expectations for the further growth of MBSJ. Thank you so much!
18th President of the MBSJ
Professor, Division of Developmental Neuroscience, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine