Old soldiers do not fade away
President, the Japan Neuroscience Society
(Keio University School of Medicine)
In his famous speech at the time of his retirement, Douglas MacArthur said, "Old soldiers never die, they simply fade away." It is aesthetically pleasing for those who have completed their roles to leave the stage. However, since MacArthur was dismissed by Truman, I imagine that there was probably some regret behind these remarks.
Upon becoming President of the Japan Neuroscience Society (JNS) in January 2020, I wrote an essay entitled "We are all in the same boat." The essay explained that we are all crew members of the same vessel, conducting neuroscience research on an island nation in the Far East in the same era. A JNS's primary responsibility is to assist the vessel in reaching its destination by helping each member of the crew realize their potential. To conclude my term, I would like to take a moment to reflect on what I have written.
What I and the Executive Committee aimed to do during this term was to overhaul the vessel itself. One of the pillars of this overhaul was to register the JNS, a voluntary organization, as a general incorporated association. Incorporation is necessary not only to improve external credibility, but also to ensure fairness and transparency in the management of the society. However, our goal was not only to incorporate, but also to take this opportunity to make major reforms in the structure of the society, its membership system, and the method of selecting directors and presidents. It is essential for the development of the JNS to incorporate members from a wider range of specialties, genders, ages, and regions, and to reflect the voices of a broader range of members in the management of the society. In the future, we would like to strengthen our financial base by becoming a public interest corporation and conducting profitable business for the public interest. In November 2022, we held elections for new Board members, and in January 2023, we will hold the first election for Councilors, which will be the foundation of the general incorporated association. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the working group, Executive Committee, and secretariat who have been involved in this reform so far.
We have received a variety of opinions from our members in the course of this reform. Some of the comments were constructive, while others were rather critical and onesided. In contrast to science, there may not be one single right answer for how an academic society should be run. Moreover, it is difficult to create a system that will satisfy 100% of members from the beginning. We hope to develop an ideal structure for the society by continuing to listen to the opinions of our members. On the other hand, as I wrote in my New Year's address (https://www.jnss.org/hp_images/files/fix_page/neuroscience-news/2022/2022No1_Feb_229_v2.pdf
) last year, I urge you to think not only about what the society can do for its members, but also about how each member can contribute to the development of the JNS and to the improvement of the environment for neuroscience research in Japan. Unlike professional politicians, the society is run by volunteer researchers. I hope that many of our members will be directly involved in the management and reform of the society through their activities as councilors, directors, and committee members.
In my inaugural essay, I stressed the importance of outreach to middle and high school students and the general public, as well as advocacy to the political and business communities. Steady outreach activities are essential to gain public support as much as space science. Even though the covid-19 imposed various restrictions, we were able to hold the Brain Science Olympiad for high school students and the public lecture "Brain Science Guru" for the general public. We would like to express our deep appreciation to all those involved. The latter has been posted on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/@user-xp1uy1qg4r
), which has garnered over 24,000 subscribers. In addition, a new "NeuroNavigator" program has been established to conduct outreach activities related to neuroscience via social networking sites (mainly Twitter) (https://www.jnss.org/neuro_navigator
). We would appreciate it if you could encourage others to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter. Rather than conducting advocacy activities independently, we worked together with the Union of Biological Sciences Associations and the Union of Brain Science Associations. The importance of conducting clinical research that meets the needs of society and partnering with industry cannot be overstated; however. I believe it is imperative to continually emphasize to politicians and bureaucrats that long-term investment in basic research in a variety of fields leads to discoveries and high-return research.
Looking back over the past three years, I believe that we have made some progress in what we set out to achieve when I took office, but we are halfway there on all counts. In particular, it is not completely clear whether the newly introduced Councilors and Board member systems will really make progress in ensuring diversity. It is also not clear whether the voices of a broad range of members will be reflected in the management of the society. Whether the JNS can develop as a hub for Asian countries as a third pole alongside the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) and the European Federation of Neuroscience (FENS) is also uncertain. The problem with old soldiers is that they do not realize that they are getting old, and they may become a hindrance to the organization without realizing it, while at the same time making it difficult to remove them from the organization. On the other hand, dealing with old soldiers with high levels of experience and ability has become a major issue in a super-aged society such as Japan, including in academia. It is unfortunate for Japan to see highly qualified researchers who have retired from academia and industry seeking to establish bases abroad. It is our opinion that the management of the JNS requires a certain number of experienced and knowledgeable individuals, particularly during this transitional period. For this reason, in the November 2022 Board of Directors election, for the first time only, we have asked candidates, mainly those who have been active in the past as Board members and committee chairs, to stand for a two-year term and not be reappointed as "Remaining Board members.” Although many of the candidates are not so old to be considered "old soldiers," I believe it is important to utilize old soldiers effectively under certain restrictions rather than letting them go.
With all of you, I hope to continue moving forward as a crew of the JNS, aiming for higher places.