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November 8, 2013

RIKEN Symposium on Tools for Science Communication

The first science communication symposium to be organized at RIKEN took place on Tuesday 5th November, in Wako, at the RIKEN headquarters.

The symposium was an opportunity for all RIKEN staff – students, post-docs, PIs and administrative staff alike - to gather, reflect on and discuss the importance of effective communication in science. Our speakers for this first symposium included a journalist, science communicators and administrators; people whose jobs it is to communicate science to a broad range of audiences and ensure that scientists do so effectively as well.

The guest speaker for this event was Dennis Normile, the Japan correspondent for Science magazine. Dennis explained how news articles are produced for the print and online versions of the magazine, and how he finds the stories he reports on. Douglas Sipp, Head of the Science Policy and Ethics Study Unit at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology talked about communicating controversial findings. He offered lots of useful tips to avoid the misrepresentation of controversial findings in the media. Charles Yokoyama, who is Research Administration Director at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, talked about how to turn research papers into clear and concise pieces of writing, for publication in high-profile journals. Juliette Savin, RIKEN’s international press officer, member of the Global Communications team and co-organizer of the event, introduced RIKEN’s international communication activities.

Following the presentations, there was a lively discussion session with the speakers and audience of about 100, including participants from three other RIKEN campuses by videoconferencing, on difficult questions such as how to publicize research findings in areas of science that are too technical or difficult to be easily understood.

Jens Wilkinson from the Global Relations and Research Coordination Office, who co-organized and chaired the meeting, said, “We are currently working to strengthen RIKEN’s external communications work, and I hope that this symposium will be a further step in this direction. We would like to hold similar events on other RIKEN campuses to give everybody a chance to think about how we can communicate more effectively.”

The audience...

... and the speakers during the Question and Answer session