Message from the 18th President

portrait of Prof. Noriko Osumi

Dear Colleagues,

Greetings to you all as we begin a new year. I, Professor Noriko Osumi of Tohoku University, am very honored and delighted to serve as president of the Molecular Biology Society of Japan for the next two years.

The MBSJ was established in 1978 by nearly 600 members endorsed by the first president, Prof. Itaru Watanabe. Since then, it has grown to encompass more than 15,000 members, making it Japan’s largest biological society, and it has transformed itself from a voluntary association to a nonprofit organization while taking on a much more diverse membership. Having served as this society’s vice-president under the 17th president, Prof. Yuji Kohara, I once again feel a deep sense of responsibility as I take over the helm.

Before anything else, I would like to apologize for an inappropriate choice of words I made in the e-mail I sent to everyone last December 3, just before the 2012 annual meeting in Fukuoka chaired by Prof. Kiyokazu Agata. I am afraid that I worried more than a few members by giving them the impression that the MBSJ would move in a direction that placed less emphasis on gender equality, but it was my intention to say that I wanted our organization to promote the development of a social environment that makes it easier for men and women to live and work side by side by taking a broader perspective that includes not only gender equality issues, but also issues pertaining to opportunities for young scientists. I am sorry for any concern or dismay that my poor wording caused.

Our society’s efforts toward advancing gender equality began in 2001 with the establishment of a working group for setting up daycare service for children at our annual meetings. In the following year, we began offering daycare at the annual meeting and launched the Gender Equality Working Group (chaired by Prof. Hisako Ohtsubo), which was elevated to a committee in 2006, with me having the honor of serving as its first chairperson. In 2009, we analyzed the data of responses that MBSJ members supplied to the large-scale survey conducted by the Japan Inter-Society Liaison Association Committee for Promoting Equal Participation of Men and Women in Science and Engineering, and posted the findings on our website under the title of “Analysis of the Second Large-Scale Survey on Actual Conditions of Gender Equality in Bioscience Professions.” The analysis, which was directed by Working Group Chairperson Isao Matsuo, revealed that problems existed for both men and women with respect to the post-doc career path, transformation of people’s attitudes, and other areas. This year, we will be analyzing the data of the third round of the survey, held late last year, and I hope to put the findings to use in our formulation of measures for nurturing young scientists. I would like to warmly thank the 2,448 MBSJ members (16.1% of our total) who responded to the survey. We currently have many female members serving in executive positions and chairing committees, and I will endeavor to further enhance the visibility of women in the MBSJ and cultivate future female leaders.

We have recently encountered another big issue—scientific misconduct in research. The recent violation of research ethics by a member was discussed. We held an emergent meeting on the day before last year’s annual meeting in Fukuoka, and organized a unscheduled forum in the evening of the first day of the meeting to brief members on the misconduct and the MBSJ’s responses. On November 8, our society sent a letter in President Kohara’s name to the president of the University of Tokyo to ask for early disclosure of the findings of their investigation (the letter is posted on our website), and subsequently sent further letters of request to that university and relevant organizations.

An earlier experience with research misconduct led our society to establish a Research Ethics Committee. As a result of the recent violation, a member who had been actively involved in the young scientist symposia hosted by the MBSJ resigned over his association with the misconduct in question, and our society is painfully aware of the gravity of this turn of events. We hope that our members will understand that we do not possess the information or authority necessary for investigating this case of misconduct.

Given our role as Japan’s largest bioscience society, the MBSJ is sincerely working to prevent further instances of scientific misconduct, including the implementation of measures for raising awareness of research ethics. The intense competition that exists in the scientific community means that research misconduct is an issue that affects all members of laboratory team, regardless of personal involvement, and that calls into question the research ethics in the principal investigator’s laboratory oversight. We must never forget the love, pride, and integrity we hold for science.

During my term in office, I will keep you posted the society’s operations with seasonal letters like this, and to promptly post on our website any information that needs to be released. Once I have our course set, I will endeavor to replace mass e-mailing with Facebook or other SNS tools as the mode of communicating with you whenever possible. Of course, I look forward to receiving feedback from you through e-mail and SNS media.

In closing, I wish you all a very productive and happy year ahead. 

January 2013

Noriko Osumi
18th President of the MBSJ
Professor, Division of Developmental Neuroscience, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine