July 4, 2012

Promoting scientific research to a general audience

Naoki Namba, Science Communications Chief Coordinator

Office for Research Communications, RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology

What do you do at RIKEN?

I work as the Science Communications Chief Coordinator in the Office for Research Communications in the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) at the RIKEN Kobe campus.

How and when did you join RIKEN?

Before entering RIKEN I had just started working for a medical publishing company after completing my master’s degree in the life sciences, and I was looking to develop my skills to share with the public my interest in science and show the importance of the role that science plays in society. These days, this field is known as “science communication,” but when I started in my current job the term was almost unheard of. The RIKEN CDB was ahead of its time in creating this type of position and when I read the recruitment ad it fit my goals so perfectly I was extremely excited and applied straight away.

How was the transition to life at RIKEN?

I joined the CDB just after the Office for Research Communications had opened and we had to start everything from scratch, so it was a bit of a bumpy ride at first. However, together with the head of the office, I worked to fulfill the ideas our scientists had, which was very enjoyable. In addition, our scientists were happy that the CDB was getting its own science communications office and were very supportive of our work. Moreover we were given some freedom to try out our own ideas in the office which made my work extremely gratifying.

Please tell us about your work at RIKEN.

My work is really varied – basically our division handles anything and everything to do with public relations. This can involve arranging tours for local residents and elementary school groups or official visits for VIPs, to updating the CDB website with summaries of our latest published papers in order to inform students and scientists about our research activities. We also proactively work with local high schools running classes and workshops for the students and teachers with the aim of fostering the next generation of researchers. In addition, our division produces a range of promotional materials such as educational books, science-themed games and goods which we use in our outreach work.

What is the best thing about working at RIKEN?

The thing I like most is that at RIKEN, whether you are a scientist or an administrative officer you are given your own discretion to experiment your ideas, which would be often hard to find in another organization. I enjoy the freedom that I have to use my imagination and individual initiative. I also like the environment at RIKEN where I am constantly in contact with cutting-edge research taking place at the center and I am responsible for communicating this to the general audience. RIKEN covers a diverse range of fields – from investigating individual cells to entire universe – so I get to encounter all sorts of science, which is also exciting.

What would you say to other people considering joining RIKEN?

I would say that what you get out of RIKEN depends on what you put into it. If you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, and have ideas of your own and the desire to see them through, at RIKEN the sky’s the limit.