Sociology of Science Society of Japan – 7th Annual Meeting

Yesterday, I attended the 7th Annual meeting of the Sociology of Science Society of Japan. The full-day event was held at Tokyo Denki University this year, and I was there for the entire event. I really enjoyed talking about our ongoing Re-conceptualization of ELSI project, as much as listening to the talks of other researchers.

The first session focused on theoretical work, and included presentations by Dr. Hirotaka Ito, who is translating Bruno Latour’s “Reassembling the Social”, and Dr. Yuki Hagiwara, who is studying Ulrich Beck’s risk theory. Dr. Ito emphasized the need to consider the methodological influence of semiotics on ANT seriously. The discussion followed also touched on practical implication of description derived using ANT. There was another talk on ANT, which focused more on Michel Callon’s attempt to develop scientmetric tools. As ANT is receiving some attention within the academic community of sociology in Japan, it would probably be important to have conversation about the difference between Latour’s and Callons ANTs. In the session, there was also a talk on epigenetics emphasizing its potential as a bridge between biology and sociology. I felt unease with the way biological explanation was accepted rather uncritically, but was not able to express it clearly. As epigenetics is one of the areas that I am quite interested in, I would like to study closely what kind of sociological critiques have been made on the attempt to explain social attributes biologically.

After lunch, I took part in the session entitled “the Social Impacts of Science and Technology.” Other speakers in the session were Dr. Wang a research fellow of JST RISTEX, Dr. Ryuma Shineha at Seijo University, and Dr. Ken Kawamura also at Seijo University. Dr. Wang’s talk called for what she calls Science of Team Science (ScieTS). She compared historical developments of discussion on interdisciplinary research in the US and Europe, suggesting that Japan might want to follow the US route. Dr. Shineha is a principle investigator of the research project Co-Creation and Communication for Real-Time Technology Assessment (CoRTTA) on Information Technology and Molecular Robotics, of which Dr. Kawamura is also a member. He explained the platform that his project is developing, and discussed the importance of capturing social images of emerging science and technology as early as possible. Dr. Kawamura then talked about the researcher’s understanding of Dual-Use issues within the emerging community of molecular robotics, arguing that it has strong connection to the neighboring field of synthetic biology. I really look forward to see how their attempt to bring together public and expert discourses to identify the adequate framing for the emergent field of research will develop in the coming years.

My presentation was entitled “STS approach to ELSI governance: Its necessity and potential”. It was based on the work of our Re-construction of ELSI project over the last year. The audience seemed to share our dissatisfaction with the way Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues (ELSI) of science and technology are handled in Japan to some extent. If we unpack the historical development of ELSI, it is difficult to deny that scientists considered it as a political device to promote scientific research and technological development. And yet, the large-scale funding of the ELSI research program in Human Genome Project in the US has allowed scholars of humanities and social sciences to challenge such original view. In contrast, the government set up a committee to deal with ELSI, and the selection of its members were based on their expertise. I argued that here we found a structural problem: i.e. unlike ‘ethical’ and ‘legal’, none can be claimed to be an expert of ‘social’. The effort has been made in the US and Europe to move to post-ELSI phase, and I explained that with our conceptualization of DELTA, we will do the similar here in Japan.

The final session was designed as a memorial session of Prof. Hitoshi Yoshioka, who passed away recently. He is well-known for his close commitment in the politics of nuclear power plants in Japan. The session however focused on his earlier work, in which he tried to develop social studies of science and technology, quite separately from that of the West. The speakers, Profs. Hironori Ayabe at Waseda University, Yasushi Kakihara at Tokyo University of Marine Science, and Yuji Tateishi at Kwansei Gakuin University, discussed how he saw the roles of social scientists in guiding science and technology in society, and I found it quite inspirational. The comments from his close friend Prof. Miwao Matsumoto also made to think the value of that kind of friendship in pursuing an academic career.

The next up is the Society for Social Studies of Science annual meeting in Sydney, in which I have two organized sessions to chair as well as my own presentation. I am confident it will be stimulating too, and very much look forward to it!


– 日本語(Japanese ver.) –


朝に行われた第1セッションは理論を中心とした発表ということで、Bruno Latourの著書「Reassembling the Social」を翻訳している山形大学の伊藤嘉高先生や、Ulrich Beckのリスク論についてご研究をされている東京海洋大学の萩原優騎先生の発表がありました。伊藤先生のご発表はLatourのANTを研究者が単に自分の目的意識に合わせて「使う」のではなく、その記号論に由来する方法論的意義に立ち返る必要があるのではというお話でした。ANTを使った研究が現象を記述することを可能にするとして、そのような記述がどのような場面で消費され得るのかについての質問もありました。また、同じセッションにはANTと社会ネットワーク分析との接点を論じる発表もありましたが、同じくANTの提唱者であるMichel Callonの問題意識との違いやANTが「ネットワーク」の分析ではないことなどが伝わるとより建設的な議論になるのかなと感じました。さらにこのセッションにはエピジェネティックスに関する発表もありましたが、個人的には生物学的なナイーブな説明を無批判に受け止めてしまっている感じが少ししたにも関わらず、それをうまく伝えることができず、私としてももう少し勉強をしないといけないと感じました。

お昼を挟んで「科学技術の社会的インパクト」と題された第2セッションでは、JST社会技術研究開発センターの王さん、成城大学の標葉先生、同じく成城大学の河村さんと一緒に登壇させていただきました。王さんのご発表は建設的な分野横断的研究の実現を目指すには「チームサイエンスの科学(SciTS)」を進める必要があるのではというものでした。米国の「チームサイエンス」と欧州の「Mode 2」を比較した上で、日本は米国のスタイルを目指すべきというご意見は興味深かったです。標葉先生と河村さんは「情報技術・分子ロボティックスを対象とした課題共創のためのリアルタイム・テクノロジーアセスメントの構築」という研究プロジェクトをなさっていて、標葉先生は現在開発中のプラットフォームのご説明と、その中で社会が科学・技術に対して抱くイメージを早い段階で察知することの必要性をお話しされていました。一方河村さんの発表は萌芽的な研究分野である分子ロボティックスの中で、どのようなデュアルユースの懸念が認知されているのかをインタビュー調査をもとにご紹介した上で、そのような認知に隣接分野である合成生物学の影響が強く出ているというものでした。こういった多元的な情報が今後科学・技術開発のためのプラットフォームの中に組み込まれていくという可能性に大きな期待を感じました。






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