Ayumi Koso is assistant professor at the National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU).
After graduating from the University of Tokyo, she earned her PhD in linguistics at Tokyo Metropolitan University. Before joining NIHU, she held positions at the Japan Science Technology Agency and the University of Tokyo.
Ayumi's primary research areas are science/research communication and public relations. She is currently interested in examining effective ways of communicating humanities research. She is also a science/research communicator at NIHU, a government funded research organization that specializes in humanities, in particular Japan studies and its related fields. NIHU hosts two museums and research institutions in the greater Tokyo area and Kansai regions.
She enjoys travelling, visiting wineries and eating shaved ice (kakigori).
1. Can you describe a turning point in your career?
It was when I decided to move into practicing science/research communication. I made the decision when I was a graduate student studying neurolinguistics and made the jump soon after leaving graduate school.
Looking back, it was quite a leap, because science/research communication involves activities that disseminate science or research related information to non-experts, such as organizing events, arranging exhibitions, writing text for a lay audience, and so forth. But as a graduate student, I had much more experience with experiments, data analysis and communicating with my research community.
2. What question are you currently exploring in your work?
I’m trying to find out how Japanese universities and academic research institutions communicate research findings and discoveries to the domestic media. And also how useful (science) reporters find these communication activities in their daily reporting.
I’m also interested in how universities and academic research institutions carry out bilingual science/research communication, and in the challenges they face. While scholarly communication - communication among academics - addresses language issues for non-native speakers of English, I think there has been less consideration of language factors, or even cultural barriers, when discussing science/research communication with the general public.
3. Which artist or writer has had the most influence on you?
It’s difficult to name just a single artist or writer. A name that pops up immediately is the writer, cultural anthropologist, and Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Nahoko Uehashi for wearing two hats and being able to tell stories that captivate not only young people but also adults.
Her narratives remind me of the power of storytelling, which is an important element of any kind of communication, not to mention science/research communication.
4. What do you think is the value of the humanities?
It gives you different perspectives, and makes you realize how diverse we are: people have different values and views of the world.
However, from a communications point of view, it can be challenging to show the value of the humanities from a "breaking news" story angle, which is a popular way of communicating scientific findings.
5. What does the future hold for your field?
I think science/research communication is becoming increasingly important for academics, universities and research institutions. The launch of the Tokyo Humanities Project speaks for itself. While there is a lot of science/research communication that goes on in Japanese, I would like to see more of it happening in this country in English.