April 1, 2021
Research Institute of Science and Technology for Society (RISTEX)
Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)
RISTEX is an organization that has two names. One is Shakai-Gijutsu Kenkyu-Kaihatsu Center (社会技術研究開発センター, literally means social-technology R&D center) in Japanese, and the other is the Research Institute of Science and Technology for Society in English. Each of these names indicates the activities of RISTEX and their significance.
The expression "science and technology for society" originates from the Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge (also called the Budapest Declaration), which was presented at the World Conference on Science held in 1999 jointly organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU) in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Discussions were held to reconsider the role of science entering into the 21st century at this conference. The resulting declaration included the words "science in society and science for society," in addition to "science for knowledge; knowledge for progress," which can be seen as the traditional roles of science. The message delivered by this expression was manifold: that the use of scientific knowledge should contribute to society, that we should be concerned about the positive and negative aspects of science, that research ethics should be regarded seriously, that equal access to knowledge should be ensured, that science education should be enriched, and that scientists should actively engage in dialogue with society.
All of these are important indications as to how modern science should be, but RISTEX was established with a particular emphasis on that "the use of scientific knowledge should contribute to society." Since then, RISTEX has been setting up R&D Focus Areas and Programs after surveying issues of which solutions society seeks, and has been funding R&D for such solutions. Since 2005, RISTEX has set up more than 15 R&D Focus Areas and Programs.
The R&D of solutions to social issues promoted by RISTEX can be generalized as "mobilization of any scholarship necessary for solutions." In fact "science" in the Budapest Declaration is used to encompass the natural sciences, engineering, the humanities and social sciences, from the outset. In the same sense, RISTEX has been principally funding R&D not restricted to existing academic classifications such as sciences and arts. The expression "shakai-gijutsu (social technology)" that appears in RISTEX's Japanese name indicates the notion of flexible research methodology which transcends such academic classifications. In addition, in recent years, social issues have become increasingly complex as typified by global environmental problems and the SDGs. These can no longer be resolved by simply applying the research outputs, and there is a growing awareness that research involving various stakeholders actually experiencing the social issues (co-creative or transdisciplinary research) is necessary.
I believe that the mission of RISTEX is to mobilize necessary scholarship for solving social issues and to develop and apply novel research methods while focusing on the "science contributing to society" that is needed in the 21st century.