As of April 1, 2020, I was appointed Chairman of RIETI. I am truly humbled to assume this position as the successor to my predecessor, Chairman Nakajima, who spearheaded many great achievements over the past nine years and stepped down at the end of March.
In the midst of the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the social situation of tomorrow has the potential to be entirely different from that of today. In light of this uncertainty, I am determined to contemplate what we should do now with RIETI officers and employees and make every effort to select the best course of action for the Institute.
As can be seen from examples in other countries, the virus infection itself is unlikely to come to an end soon. In this sense, it is necessary to develop future plans assuming various scenarios, including one where an explosive rise in infections begins, and one where COVID-19 infections do not subside until this autumn, or this winter. Even if the pandemic dies down, the disease will not truly be overcome until effective drugs and vaccines are developed.
There is no end to the number of worst-case scenarios that are available for consideration. However, RIETI has a duty as a leading policy think tank and policy research institute in Japan and Asia, and we must fulfill and further expand that duty. To this end, we need to think hard about our current and future courses of action.
To put it simply, social science is an academic discipline that studies how to use goods and how to create systems to use them. I believe a pressing issue for RIETI as a research institute concerned with social science is to enhance its capabilities as a virtual organization. This means utilizing online meetings, seminars, lectures, and workshops via the internet to expand its information networks. Japan is lagging behind not only Western countries but also China and South Korea in terms of the nation's implementation and use of online resources. For example, with the outbreak of COVID-19, many US universities are rapidly moving to online lectures. As a social science research institute, I believe that RIETI must be an organization that tests and drives efforts to enhance Japan's system for virtual organization. For the greater development of social science, it is essential to share our understanding of issues through clear communication and to invent our own unique solutions to addressing the issues.
RIETI's Fifth Medium-term Plan positions the integration of humanities and sciences as a pillar of its research activities. Japan's science and technology policy has long been based on the belief that science and technology need to be studied only by scientists. The Basic Act on Science and Technology stipulates that its purpose is to promote the hard sciences that are not concerned with the humanities, and accordingly social science has been put aside. Since my tenure as a professor at University of Kyoto, I have been encouraging relevant people to revise the Act to include the humanities and the social sciences in its scope, and my desire has finally been realized. At the same time, it is my great pleasure to be engaged in economics research that includes a new perspective focusing on the integration of humanities and sciences as a mission of the policy research institute, as well as the promotion of evidence-based policy-making (EBPM) and data maintenance and utilization as a policy think tank, together with you all.
I am committed to working with you to overcome the current difficulties and contribute to establishing a more advanced society. I would like to ask for your cooperation in this endeavor.