Open Access

What should scientists do outside the laboratory? lessons on science communication from the Japanese genome research project

  • Machiko Itoh and
  • Kazuto Kato
Genomics, Society and Policy20051:80

DOI: 10.1186/1746-5354-1-2-80

Published: 15 August 2005


It is essential for scientists to introduce their research in a comprehensible manner and to communicate with colleagues in the same/different fields and with the public. As genome research requires the massive expenditure of public funds, and raises ethical, legal, and social issues, genome scientists have communicated extensively with the public. In addition, they have established interdisciplinary collaborations that resulted in the creation of a new research field known as bioinformatics.

We examined the history of communication activities involving Japanese genome scientists between 1989 and 2005 using extensive literature surveys and interviews. We found that genome researchers went through much trial and error, particularly with respect to collaborative interdisciplinary efforts, and although they early on recognized the necessity of communicating with colleagues in different fields, it was not until the introduction of a large governmental research budget, the Millennium Project (2000 - 2004), that individual researchers began to be actively engaged in communication activities. In conclusion, to facilitate the participation of scientists in communication activities, researchers who are acquainted with different research fields, community, and society should proactively function as coordinators of interdisciplinary programs or mediators of collaborative research. It is also of primal importance to present to scientists the advantage of dialogue with society scientifically and to design effective communication programs that provide researchers with such opportunities.