Practices to Offer Science Communication Opportunities through Funding Program Management

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Senkei Umehara, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Tokyo, Japan
Scientific research is an integral part of broader societal activity. Whether academic or applied, research activity leads to new discoveries that contribute to a common, long-existing knowledgebase for all humanity; and the discoveries are recognized, interpreted and translated into values by various stakeholders in the greater research ecosystem. Researchers in this sense play key roles in producing seeds for innovation, but at the same time they have opportunities, or may we call them rather responsibilities, in "marketing" their outcomes for the benefit of all people. Public funding programs support, in the first place, researchers with scientifically excellent proposals; however, to meet the specific (often socio-economic) mission of programs concerned, the funding bodies reserve the rights to highly evaluate proposals with societal impact. And the more complex issues we face today and tomorrow, the more innovation-oriented programs we need to address them. This situation has two meanings, one related to the incentives of researchers for open-mindedness, and one related to those of funding bodies for open-minded researchers. In other words, today's scientific research can no longer be secluded from the outside world. In this presentation we introduce some of our bridging efforts and practices through the management of funding programs adopting a "virtual institute" system, where multidisciplinary players are joined from remote places. Specifically called the Core Research for Evolutionary Science and Technology (CREST) and the Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology (PRESTO), the two project funding programs are optimized for innovation-oriented basic research driven by teams and individuals, respectively. Their uniqueness lies in the fact that we do "nursing" for project progress; that is, the management staff plans frequent, intensive interactions among different project members, experts and stakeholders where catalyzed face-to-face communication is nearly mandatory to participants. Showing examples of good practices, we hope to discuss with the audience the ideal relationship among leading scientists in neighboring and distant disciplines, bridging experts, the general public, and staff at funding agencies like us. The insights would also be useful for science communication practitioners. Moreover, we hope that students and early career scientists would find clues to broaden their research, which eventually lead to more impactful academic achievements and societal contributions in the future.