[Interview] Professor, Hiroshima University Miyama, Shoken No. 3

Astronomers are also excellent speakers
Communicative attempts are the first steps to enhancing understanding towards research

Okada At the present, the nation is tightening the budget and because of this, in terms of distribution of research funding such as the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research, they are trying to prioritize more practical researches, researches that stand closer to the exit. Astronomy is a fundamental research discipline. However, although it is not "close to the exit" it has the advantages of being practical through attempts such as collaborating with companies to develop new instruments. In that sense, the discipline is lucky in terms of securing research funding. So people in so called fundamental research or those in humanities research that at first sight seem somewhat hobbie-like sometimes look at your field in this way.
I think that all research is connected in the end. It is crucial to nurture the soil for all genres, without looking short-sightedly at individual researches and condemning them to be useless. The important thing is, to grow flowers you don't know will bloom where, and to support research you don't know what further results it will lead to. I fear that if we don't stop seeking just the exit, and continue to provide support with a diverse stance, science will stop evolving and will eventually have negative effect on Japanese society. Dr. Miyama, how do you feel about this issue?

Miyama We had a huge telescope installed in Nobeyama, Nagano prefecture. Subaru telescope was installed in Hawaii, and in Chile south America, the ALMA telescope. Now we are trying to construct a 30 meter telescope called the TMT (thirty meter telescope). So nowadays people often tell us "Astronomy is doing so good unlike the other fields."

Okada Yes I can imagine.

Miyama Yes, we are grateful of this. What we can boast in comparison to the other fields is our public relations. There are a lot of astronomy fans in Japan, and many people participate in our lectures. Especially since the construction of the Subaru telescope, the beautiful high-resolution photographs have been very popular. Because there are so many occasions to have lectures, staffs at the observatory become good speakers. When they go give lectures at elementary schools, the observatory sometimes provides the necessary fees.
We have steadily been continuing efforts to communicate, telling people "We can take these incredible photographs" or "We discovered something incredible. Next we may be able to see a proof of life." This may be the reason that people understand that although what we do is expensive, but quite interesting.

Okada Public relations to communicate a particular culture is important.

Miyama As many researchers in humanities are good speakers, so if they go out more out of universities and communicate for example what sort of philosophies are important in what way, then people might understand their research more, and it may become easier for them to receive funding.
Students at SOKENDAI would also have more chance to communicate in the future. I think educating them so that they can communicate to the public about their research in a simple way, in many different occasions. A lot about being a good speaker also has to do with experience, so it will probably be good to visit many places. Being able to express one self eloquently is one of the key abilities that will become important in Japan and the world.

Make use of the top class well endowed educational environment, and continue challenging

Mayama Lastly, please give some advice on what you expect out of SOKENDAI, and messages to the current students and the prospective students of SOKENDAI.

Miyama In one word, I would like for them to keep on challenging. SOKENDAI has exceptionally more teachers per student compared to other universities, and I hope students make use of this blessed environment. As what you have here is not the typical mass education, there are really so many researchers that there is one instructor per student, or even more.
I heard that the Nobel laureate, Dr. Ohsumi purposely chose a field where no one had really tackled. Successful people make efforts like that. Research is really about challenge to begin with in this sense.
I am repeating myself but because this is an extremely blessed educational institution even only in terms of facilities, I sincerely ask the students to continue challenging. To those applying for SOKENDAI, I would like to emphasize that this is the university that makes such challenges possible.

Okada Thank you very much. In terms of environment, I am aware that no other university has a better environment. The quality and the number of instructors, the facilities, and the atmosphere, they are all good. I think it is very important for the students to be aware of that, and to utilize such advantages actively.
Dr. Miyama, thank you so much for your talk today.


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