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Susanne Reffert | IPMU | Japan

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Talking Business

Yesterday, I had a somewhat different kind of assignment. Along with three more colleagues from IPMU (among them a neutrino experimentalist and an observational astrophysicist), I was to meet with a group of business people as part of a course of continued education they were attending. The people attending were in their mid-thirties to fifties and came from big corporations, banks and the Japanese government. I didn’t really know what to expect. In general I am always worried that business people may think our work has too few direct applications to be deemed useful by them. After all, it is people like them who decide about all those budget cuts we are experiencing in science of late…

But I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was immensely positively surprised and touched by how much appreciation and support they were expressing for the scientific endeavor. I don’t know whether I was simply wrong about the perception of science in business circles, or whether in Japanese society, science is valued more than in other countries, or whether I chanced upon a particularly accommodating group of people. In any case, I was surprised. People not only expressed the view that basic science is important for a society, they even let us know that beyond the financial assistance society provides us with, they are morally supporting us in the difficulties we face in our quest. They were essentially cheering us on! Such a thing has not yet happened to me. It was great to hear that non-scientists care about our work and encourage us like this. This evening spent discussing about science and life as a scientist with the business people has turned out to be an unexpectedly rewarding experience.

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