2019-20 President Kouichi ASAKURA

Professor, Keio University

January 2021

Things That Should and Should Not Be Changed

 “Executing our mission without reckless valor in the wake of present circumstances” was the catchphrase of the 59th annual meeting of the Japan Oil Chemists’ Society. The virtual meeting was held in November last year, a hasty change from the original plan. The submission of research articles to academic journals is extremely important for researchers in academia, since their personal evaluation is essentially determined by the quantity and quality of their publications. Furthermore, their tremendous achievements, published as research articles, may bring researchers large-scale public funds. Although there is a tendency to place importance on the publication of refereed articles, oral and poster presentations in annual meetings have not become obsolete. On the contrary, more and more seminars and symposiums tend to include oral and poster presentation sessions by participants in addition to the invited lecturers. I feel that exchanging important information, such as expertise that is difficult to understand from the written manuscript, as well as the inside story about the process of setting experimental conditions, can be possible through face-to-face communication, and researchers recognize its importance.

However, “in the wake of present circumstances,” face-to-face communication is not possible. Although we are now planning to organize a face-to-face annual meeting later this year, it is just a plan, and no one knows whether it will be held or not. In addition, plans for seminars and symposiums of this year have not yet been decided. However, it is our responsibility to “execute our mission” by continuing our research and development on Oleo Science to lead our society in a good direction. Last year, I was appointed to carry out the duties of chairperson of the annual meeting temporarily, and I organized a virtual meeting in which participants remotely connected with each other “without reckless valor” against the fear of virus infection. In the virtual annual meeting, we decided to perform all presentations and lectures as on-demand video, and all questions and answers were exchanged in writing because of the anxiety regarding computers and internet connections. The meeting thus lacked a sense of reality. In our next virtual annual meeting, enhancing articipants’ sense of reality is important. It behooves us to make use of technological innovations in this progressive age of virtual reality.

In fact, holding the annual meeting online actually let us realize the usefulness of the Internet. Participants do not need to wonder about choosing which presentations to listen to in instances of overlap, and researchers living far do not need to hesitate in attending the meeting. In my last year’s New Year Message, I emphasized the importance of the internationalization of society, along with interdisciplinary interactions. It is easy to access virtual meetings even from the other side of the globe. Similarly, while making presentations in Japanese is regarded as usual for Japanese researchers, and presentations in English are regarded as exceptional in meetings held in Japan, in an era when everyone can easily access meetings via Internet, even from the other side of the globe, it may be quite natural that Japanese researchers start thinking of presenting in English to attract a larger audience.

There are various “things that should be changed” for us. In particular, it is extremely important that we respond to the advancements in information technology flexibly, and maintain the “things that should not be changed,” i.e., placing greater significance on face-to-face communication to exchange important information to develop Oleo Science by remote communication.


January 2020 

   The Bustling of Scramble Intersection of Shibuya Station, the Excited Rugby World Cup Tournament & Innovation of the Annual Meeting of the Japan Oil Chemists’ Society

“About 3,000 for each green light” is the number of people who cross the “Scramble Intersection” of Shibuya Station during the most populated time zone, according to information posted on the website of Shibuya Center-gai (http://center-gai.jp/info/index.asp).   It is always bustling with various kinds of people gathering for various purposes. “Intersection” is also a word that sums up the vision of innovation plan of the Japan Oil Chemists’ Society (JOCS)  proposed in 2017 by Future Design Committee led by Chairperson Dr. Dai Kitamoto.   We, at JOCS, are now pushing for an innovative plan based on the vision for our biggest event, the annual meeting, where it becomes “an intersection for researchers and engineers from diverse fields.   They gather at the intersection for diverse purposes to develop a chaotic atmosphere to emerge new alliances, technologies, and academic fields that can be never imagined before.”

As an initial trial, the “Main subject symposium: Matching of sees and needs” was held during the 2019 annual meeting by the extraordinary effort of Dr. Naohiro Goto, executive committee chairperson. (The last year’s main subject symposium was unfortunately cancelled because of the typhoon.)   Under the leadership of Dr. Tomohiro Imura, chairperson of the planning and management committee of the annual meeting, academic researchers introduced cutting-edge research results and policies on education, while researchers from industrial fields explained their requirements in the technologies and human resources field. Many people actively particiapted in the discussions during the symposium and poster session.   Our annual meetings in 2020 and 2021 will be held in Gifu and Kochi, respectively, and the executive committee chairpersons for these will be Dr. Mamoru Koketsu and Dr. Nagatoshi Nishiwaki, respectively.   The annual meeting is expected to evolve as a “Bustling Intersection of Industry and  Academia”.

On a different note, Rugby World Cup tournament in 2019 generated a lot of excitement across Japan.   However, there is one thing that makes me disappointed. Although the number of Japanese players was 24 in the Japan’s national team, a majority of Japanese believe that it was 16 or 15. (They seem to think that the number is 16 or 15 depending on
whether they look at the name list or picture list.)   In addition, three in seven foreign players graduated from Japanese universities or high schools.   This situation made me remember the event just after I completed my sabbatical year in the US and returned to my university in 1997.   I heard the word “Ryugakusei” for the first time in a year (it segregates foreign students from Japanese students in Japan).   In the US, compared to students born and raised in America, an increasing number of students coming from the other countries were studying at the graduate school of so-called
research universities even in the middle of the 1990’s.   I remember that neither segregations nor special cares was provided to overseas students at US universities.

The second concept of the innovation plan for the annual meeting is “Intersection of Researchers and Engineers from Diverse Background.”   It would be nice if our annual meeting evolves into an intersection where diverse people from different places gather to succeed, just like BRAVE BLOSSOMS, Japan’s national rugby team. In order to ignite the evolution of our annual meeting, we have decided to launch “Selected Lectures” instead of reducing the number of invited lectures at the 2nd World Congress on Oleo Science to be held in Kushiro city in 2022 to commemorate the
70th anniversary of JOCS.   The major concept of “Internationalization” in Japan may involve contacting an authority or leading group in the world to follow and emulate their success story. Therefore, many presentations were made by authorities invited in the international conferences.   On the contrary, for “Selected Lectures”, the executive committee selects aspiring researchers among applicants from across the world, who will provide renewed and vital primary information.   In other words, the plan is not based on the concept of “Inviting Zico or Iniesta here to learn
everything from them”, but is based on “Sowing the seeds of talented persons who wish to choose this place, to make great efforts in this place, and to vitalize this place like Michael Leitch or Kotaro Matsushima”.

I feel that I heard nice words at the award presentation of JOCS Award for Young Scientist by Dr. Makoto Uyama at the 2019 annual meeting. That is “The past success experience occasionally becomes legirons to the future development.” I hope our annual meeting continues to be an innovative affair in order to evolve as an “Intersection.” I thank you very much for your support.

In conclusion, let me wish you a Happy New Year! I hope the year 2019 or Reiwa 2nd, when Japan hosts the
Summer Olympic Games for the first time in 56 years, will be a wonderful one for you.

June 2019

Message from Our New President

When one visits Jingu Stadium to watch a baseball game of my university’s team, one can listen the school song of the rival university, which includes the phrase, “Eternal ideal without forgetting reality.” Pursuing an ideal, especially an eternal ideal, as an organization may induce its members to have motivation and dreams regarding their futures. However, if the process of pursuing an eternal ideal is removed from reality by doing perfunctory deal with present problems and missing profits by obsessing to much on the difference of direction from the ideal, as well as pushing the members to exhaustion—members may no longer feel a sense of belonging to the organization.

My appointment as president was made in the year when the era changed from Heisei 31st to Reiwa 1th (2019), and it was recently decided at our 65th regular general meeting and 430th meeting of the board of directors. Looking at our history, we can realize that the efforts of our seniors have been wonderful, and they exactly pursued the “Eternal ideal without forgetting reality.” The best example is the changes in our journal.

Our journal used to play the dual role of publishing research articles and providing information, and it published a mix of Japanese and English articles by the end of the last century. This type of  journal is convenient for readers. However, the motivation of researchers to submit excellent manuscripts to our journal declined sharply during last two decades of the last century owing to the increasing trend of judging researchers’ achievements through their quantitative evaluation. Our society then began publishing the Journal of Oleo Science, which consists of only scientific articles, from 2001. After that, the electronic version of the journal was started, and it became a purely English journal and began receiving an impact factor since 2010. This journal established a platform for the Japan Oil Chemists’ Society to pursue an ideal and lead the field of oleo science worldwide. Moreover, our society simultaneously publishes Oleoscience (in Japanese alphabet) consisting of  important information to meet the real demand of readers getting the information in this field in Japanese. As always, I look forward to your support in the year ahead.

One feature of the Japan Oil Chemists’ Society is its diversity. However, we may recognize that there are various types of axes of diversity. Of course, the first is the axis of the research field, such as [Lipid life science ↔ Chemistry of oils and fats for food and daily necessaries ↔ Oils and fats industrial technology ↔ Detergent technology ↔ Synthesis of surfactants ↔ Interface physical science]. In addition, there are axes of diversity with the purpose of encouraging members’ participation in this society: [Presenting information ↔ Taking information] and [Individual oriented ↔ Organization  oriented]. Our society, therefore, should recognize that we should meet the demand of being multi-diverse when developing new plans. Regarding our journal, we did not separate it by research fields, unlike journals of the American Oil Chemists’ Society that are distinguished into two types—oils and fats chemistry and surfactant and detergent chemistry. We are proud to propose the academic field of “oleo science” to create an environment that enhances cooperation between our diverse research fields. Nevertheless, we did separate the journal into two based on language—one consisting of only scientific English articles and the other consisting of Message from the President of the Japan Oil Chemists’ Society Inaugural Remarks

I resigned from almost all the posts of committee member of our society at the time of my appointment as president. I, however, continue as the chair of two committees, one for the reform and promotion of the annual meeting and the other for the preparation of the 70th anniversary events. I am planning to challenge some programs to ensure our annual meeting becomes an active  international intersection of industries and academics, by encouraging an atmosphere of openness to allow new interdisciplinary ideas as well as of austerity and fortitude to ensure the ideas are at the
academic level. Specifically, we are planning to establish sections for “academic–industrial collaboration” and “selected international lectures.” We are conducting the 2nd World Congress on Oleo Science at Kushiro city in Hokkaido in 2022 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of our establishment. We would like to complete the new style of meeting by 2022 and continue using this style afterward.

I have made up my mind to pursue the “Eternal ideal without forgetting reality,” a phrase that appeared in a school song of our rival university in conformity with the “Spirit of staunch activeness and indomitable indefatigability”, the words of my school’s founder. I thank you very much for your support.