Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The good the bad and the ugly: medical science in Japan

Have you ever wondered how science is done in Japan, no?, well too bad, here is a random assortment of observations I've made so far:

- Work ethics are really important here, and researchers really go the extra mile to get things done, even if it means having less time for fun or being with the family.

- After work casual beer amongst student is relatively rare, instead, when people go out drinking they get shit-faced. PIs are no exception, and they tend to buy the drinks of the students.

- Grooming in the lab is ok here. People actually brush their teeth in TC or shave in the lab. I'm not even joking.

- Keeping food in the lab, or lab stuff in the lunch room is common. In fact in my shared office there is a freezer with enzymes and rice balls.

- Japanese are much better at reading English than speaking it.

- There is no law on animal research ethics, what you can or cannot do is up to the individual researcher or its institution. Yikes, I've seen some scary stuff.

- Many researchers are reluctant to go to meetings abroad because they fear speaking English in public.

- Patient consent for research is really easy to get, people here really trust their doctors.

- Science agency funding is a nightmare here. Different ministries may fund different types of projects, depending on your research institution's affiliation. For example your grant for cancer research might be coming from an entirely different ministry depending on whether you are in a regional hospital (science and tech) or a university hospital (education).

- Medical education here is sink or swim. It's easier to get into some universities, but depending on your university, license exam success rate may be as low as 30%.

- Team work is difficult because of both professional hierarchy and conflict avoidance. This got me really frustrated at first. Japanese tend to avoid conflict at all cost, so they will not share information with you if it may displease you. If an experiment doesn't work, they will act like it never happened. For example a particular experiment failed and I was trying to ask my boss why, but he kept changing the subject, or telling me we'll have a meeting later. The reason was a mistake made by one of his students. I now understand how to get such information, you have to read between the lines, or ask people lower in the ladder. I think high-placed people can't admit mistakes. Also, you don't ask things straight to the people at the top, you ask the person directly above you, and it gets transmitted up the ladder and then back down the ladder for your answer.


Anonymous said...

I totally trim nose hairs in the laminar flow hoods.

Bayman said...

Actually dry ice fog is ideal for shaving. If you get the flow right, you can supercool your facial hairs down to -60C or so without damaging your skin, making them so brittle you can almost scrape them off the with just the edge of an ordinary piece of paper.