Say you’re just a normal person in Iwate. You’ve got a day job, you’ve got obligations, and you’re busy balancing work, life, family, and friends. But lately, you’ve noticed all of these signs for something called the “ILC.” Everyone seems to be fired up about this thing – this International Linear Collider. You’ve heard about it a few times on the news, but you’re frustrated that nobody takes the time to explain it. Even when they do – an “accelerator” that “collides elementary particles” – your only answer is,

“…Ok, but what does that have to do with me?”

Welcome to the challenge of ILC outreach – and every kind of science outreach. It’s easy to stand up in front of a group, use a Powerpoint and explain technical details. It’s a lot harder to get residents of the local area excited and, even more important, get involved with the project. Dr. Atsuto Suzuki, the new president of Iwate Prefectural University and former director general of KEK (High Energy Accelerator Research Organization in Tsukuba), envisions the ILC as a project that lasts for a century or more, but that can only happen if the local residents take on the project as their own.

Dr. Suzuki

Dr. Suzuki

According to Dr. Suzuki, there are three main parties involved with bringing about the ILC: Scientists, government, and local people. Progress is happening with the first two, but the local people of Iwate and Japan remain at arm’s length. Awareness of the project is high; local newspapers such as the Iwate Nippo, Iwate Nichinichi, and Tanko Nichinichi report about the ILC almost daily. However, most people aren’t really sure how it will affect them.

How, then, do we get them involved? Dr. Suzuki’s dream is to create an “ILC Caravan” – a team that travels around the prefecture to encourage dialog between normal people and ILC officials. “We don’t want to stand in front of everyone and give a lecture. We want to get into small groups so we can debate plans for the ILC and related community development.”

Part of that means reaching out to foreign residents. Those who have lived here for years are in the best position to help other foreign residents get acclimated to the rural nature of Iwate. For the past two years, the ILC Support Committee has worked with a focus on southern Iwate to bring awareness to the challenges facing foreign residents, as well as lend their expertise and advice to local governments. Recently they set up a booth at a local fair to talk about the ILC while cooking up some delicious Filipino food and “Linear Co-weiners” (with two different sauces colliding in the middle!). Chairman Bill Lewis definitely sees a need to reach out to the local community, and is planning for more such events in the future.

An informational booth on the ILC at a local festival

An informational booth on the ILC at a local festival

Dr. Suzuki has also mentioned a desire to team up with the ILC Support Committee to reach out to both Japanese and other foreign residents. “It’s not good to work separately.” The ILC will be a huge project requiring cooperation among local and national government, private businesses, local citizens, and the international community. The ILC is still a ways off, but we have to start teaming up now in order to bring the project to fruition.

Speaking on a personal level, I once had the opportunity to speak about the ILC with a small group of
elementary school students. It was the middle of summer break and I only had around 5 students in the class, but that led to an intimate conversation about the ILC and the students’ visions of the future. After a short lecture – which was a pretty monumental task, seeing as I had to do it in Japanese, yikes! – I asked the students to draw their ideas of what the ILC would look like, and how it would change Iwate. Among their visions of the future were ideas for smoothing communication between Japanese and foreign residents (translator devices ala Star Trek, here we come!). Even young children have ideas about how to make a better community for all of us, and keeping the event small allowed them to feel comfortable giving their opinion.

On that note, thank you for joining us at The Kitakami Times. This will be our theme: outreach about the International Linear Collider. Outreach to the scientific community abroad, to foreign residents, and to the entire world. We’d be honored if you took the journey with us.


コミュニティーへのアウトリーチ ~ 鈴木厚人氏とILCキャラバン