Japan Scicom Forum 2023 held at OIST

The fifth annual JSF conference took place November 21-22 at OIST, in-person for the first time since 2019.

Japan Scicom Forum 23 group picture

Long ago, the historical Ryukyu Kingdom of Okinawa was a center of trade in the region, a conflux of people and ideas. Okinawans travelled to Japan, China, Thailand, the Philippines, and many other places to exchange goods and ideas, which has left its mark on modern-day Okinawa and its unique and open-minded culture. In a way, then, locating the fifth annual Japan Scicom Forum (JSF) at the Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology (OIST) has a historical antecedent, and it was itself a historical moment for JSF, bringing together participants, speakers and organizers from across Japan, Southeast Asia, and as far as the UK and Nigeria. 

As the previous two iterations of the JSF conferences were held online due to COVID-19, coupled with how most English-speaking science communicators in Japan are few and far between, finally being able to convene in-person has been a relief for many. Enthusiasm was felt throughout the conference, but especially in the coffee breaks and the networking dinner: people were excited to connect in-person, and business cards and experiences were exchanged over coffee, cookies, and canapés.

Coffee break at Japan Scicom Forum 2023
Lively discussion during a coffee-break at the JSF23 conference. Photo: Andrew Scott/OIST
Lively discussion during a coffee-break at the JSF23 conference. Photo: Andrew Scott/OIST

Networking was clearly a key feature of this year’s JSF, as participants came together from all walks of professional life to bond over communications across institutions, media forms and backgrounds. Ali Bailey, director of communications at The Francis Crick Institute (The Crick), the keynote speaker, told the atypical tale of how she came to The Crick, with a background in biology, through producing radio for the BBC, to directing communications for British hospitals and finally The Crick. A similar theme arose in the panel discussion, which was moderated by the Vice President of Communications at OIST, Heather Young, about the multifaceted world of science communicators, where the diverse group of panelists from Japan, Nigeria and the Philippines shared their stories of personal and professional development, from STEM to Comms, Africa to Japan, and global climate efforts to local medical care. 

Panel discussion at Japan Scicom Forum 2023
The three panelists at JSF23 speaking on the topic “The many worlds of science communicators”, moderated by OIST Vice President of Communication and Public Relations, Heather Young (back left) and introduced by OIST Director of Communications, Natsuki Matsumoto (back right). Front left: Naoki Namba, Director of Public Relations & Communications Division at Hokkaido University. Front center: Charmaine Caparas, Communications Manager, Stockholm Environment Institute. Front right: Chibuamam Ilechukwu, Founder of Hypertension Africa. Photo: Andrew Scott/OIST
The three panelists at JSF23 speaking on the topic “The many worlds of science communicators”, moderated by OIST Vice President of Communication and Public Relations, Heather Young (back left) and introduced by OIST Director of Communications, Natsuki Matsumoto (back right). Front left: Naoki Namba, Director of Public Relations & Communications Division at Hokkaido University. Front center: Charmaine Caparas, Communications Manager, Stockholm Environment Institute. Front right: Chibuamam Ilechukwu, Founder of Hypertension Africa. Photo: Andrew Scott/OIST

JSF23 was also a gold mine of concrete skills, with four workshops giving participants a way to grapple with different tools such as podcasting and animation and improving cultural awareness in translating science from global to local, Japanese to English, and vice versa. The six flash talks provided six sparks of inspiration for rethinking the boundaries of our creative toolboxes in communicating science and engaging with popular audiences, whether it’s using comprehensive data analysis to assess the needs of a given community, setting up STEM escape rooms or leveraging creative writing. 

Workshop and flash talk at Japan Scicom Forum 2023
Left: Workshop on simplifying science through art and storytelling, facilitated by Nikitaa Sivaakumar, Founder and Director of Wonder Yonder. Right: Flash talk on data analysis by Charlotte Valk, master’s student at Utrecht University. Photos: Andrew Scott/OIST.

The organizers, volunteers, and OIST hosts all came together to make the JSF23 conference a resounding success. The drive to improve the field of science communication, and the desire to create an open yet warm, productive yet casual space for English-speaking science communicators across Japan and beyond, was inspiring to witness, and promises a bright future for the dissemination of science ahead.

To see all the photos from JSF23, please see the Flickr album here.

For press enquiries, please contact media@oist.jp

Share on: