How many people imagined one year ago that we would see the world as we do today? The year 2020 was consumed by a widespread confusion and shock that our daily lives—arguing with colleagues in the research laboratory, enjoying delicious meals with friends, delivering in-person lectures, interacting with other researchers at academic meetings and conferences—were no longer taken for granted. Last year when I accepted the role of President of the Japan Neuroscience Society (JNS), I mentioned that “we are in the same boat.” We are all crew of the metaphorical ship called the JNS, whose mission is to advance neuroscience research in Japan. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which first broke out in the central part of China, has caused drastic changes to people’s lives across the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of the society of which we are all a part.
COVID-19 has a tremendous impact on mental health. In April 2020, the Union of Brain Science Associations in Japan, of which the JNS is a member, released its “Urgent Recommendations Regarding the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Related Mental Health Crises and Neuroscientific Measures to Deal with Them.” The JNS will continue to take necessary actions in cooperation with other academic associations.
Since public research budgets are primarily funded by national taxes, public research grant systems may undergo a major revision in the post-coronavirus future. Clinical research programs and research projects leading to commercialization opportunities should be considered priorities for funding. At the same time, long-term funding strategies are needed for fundamental research programs because they provide the foundation for breakthrough innovation. The recent success of the Hayabusa-2 space probe mission was welcomed by nationwide enthusiasm. The success encourages us to take proactive actions and communicate the scientific value and challenges of neuroscience research to the general public and policy-makers. I kindly invite the JNS board and individual members to consider and do what they can to achieve this goal.
I find a silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud. We have realized the importance of social gathering and in-person interactions. We will increase the opportunities to have person-to-person exchanges with leading national and international neuroscientists and general lay people after the COVID-19 crisis is over. The COVID-19 pandemic also helped us recognize the usefulness and benefits of online conferences. A questionnaire survey was conducted after the 43rd JNS Annual Meeting held completely online from July 29 to August 1, 2020, under the Chair Dr. Kitazawa. The questionnaire showed that teleconferencing is a viable option for those who cannot come to the meeting because of travel issues or major life events. Taking note of the survey results, the JNS is going to provide in-person and virtual participation options for the next (44th) Annual Meeting, which is going to be held from July 28 to July 31, 2021, under the Chair Dr. Bito. This 44th Annual Meeting will be the first Japan-China-South Korea tripartite international conference. I am looking forward to your active participation.
As I indicated in my 2020 greetings, we will gradually review and revise the activities and roles of the JNS to meet the challenges of tomorrow. The JNS helps individual members grow and maximize their potential to fulfil their challenges and dreams. As you may have noticed, the updated JNS website has a function by which members can easily make their inputs and suggestions. I cordially ask for your help and cooperation. It would be great if we could all contribute to human wellbeing and culture by advancing neuroscience in Japan.