Mentor Award of ‘Nature’: The Crazy Ones


Nature is, of course, the premier science magazine that anyone in this field knows.

The magazine founded‘Mentor Award’ 4 years ago.  I fully agree and support the concept of Dr. Philip Campbell,the Editor-in-Chief.

I am sure you are able to find the same messages as this award in many of my columns (Here are some examples from this year) (Ref.1).  Repeatedly, I have pointed out that in Japan where the society is ‘vertically hierarchial’ structured it is often hard for individuals to go out to the wide world spontaneously therefore making it difficult for new human resource or new ‘buds’ of ‘somebody’ to emerge.  The essence is the importance for the mentors to encourage young students and fellows to get out to a wide world and compete and try to becoming independent even when young..

It appears to me that in general, the importance of ‘Mentors’ is not widely recognized in nurturing next generation of scientists, and the achievements of scientists (and in a vertical society this often means the boss of the organization) are valued based on their scientific achievements.  I am not blaming this though ? it is wonderful as it is.

For senior scientists it is extremely important to encourage their graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and young scientists to become independent standing on their own feet and to pursue new frontiers.  How much the research advisors succeed in these things of nurturing is as important as succeeding in their own research.

This year’s Mentor Award was given to two Japanese scientists in two categories; ‘Lifetime Achievement’ and ‘Mid Career Achievement’.  The awarding ceremony took place at the British Embassy in Tokyo on December 1st that opened with speeches by Ambassador Warren and Dr. Philip Campbell, Editor in Chief of ‘Nature’ who came to Japan for this occasion.  It was a very nice gathering and participants were handed lovely pamphlets.

I would like to congratulate from the bottom of my heart Dr. Fumio Osawa, the winner of ‘Lifetime Achievement’ andDr. Hiroaki Kitano, the winner of ‘ Mid Career Achievement’ (Sony Computer Science Laboratories Ltd. ); Many of their former students and fellows also gathered to celebrate and we all enjoyed a wonderful time.

About 60 candidates were nominated for this award and each of them was highly qualified.  It was my great honor to be invited to join the jury committee of 6 members chaired by Dr. Akiyoshi Wada.

The biggest surprise was the results of this jury committee.  It was almost a wonder that there was scarcely any difference in the evaluation result of those 6 judges in scoring of the top candidates.  When the discussion began, I realized how each jury read carefully through the application materials and shared common values about the meaning of ‘Mentors’.

Toast to these ‘out of box ‘Mentors’’ who draw out ‘extraordinary possibilities’ from the young scientists of next generation!  I think this element is manifested in the philosophy described by these two award winners (Ref.1), too.(in Japanese)

By the way, I found in the nomination form of Dr Kitano, the following ‘famous phrases’ among some people, as his motto..  This is apparently his core philosophy.

‘The Crazy Ones’ ;  Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Dr. Kitano says though that he is not ‘crazy enough’ yet!

Actually, just recently, I tried to include an one minute video of ‘The Crazy Ones’ in my keynote lecture ‘Entrepreneur = Change Agent’ which I wrote about in my column ‘GEW-1’, but the conditions of the stage, lighting, and other factors were not good enough for this and I had to give up the idea.