Message from the Founding Chairman
The Science and Technology in Society forum (the STS forum), was founded in 2004 by Koji Omi, a former Minister of Finance and former Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy and for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs in the Japanese government. The STS forum aims to provide a new mechanism for open discussions on an informal basis and to build a human network that would, over time, resolve the new challenges stemming from developments in science and technology. The STS forum community also explores opportunities arising from science and technology and addresses ways of removing barriers by using science and technology to solve the problems facing humankind.
The rapid progress of science and technology has brought economic growth and enriched the quality of our lives on the one hand. However, advances in science and technology have raised important ethical, safety and environmental issues: possible negative applications are threatening humankind's own future. We call these "the lights and shadows of science and technology.” We must develop the lights and control the shadows.
The STS forum focuses on many aspects of science and technology in society, for example, technological development in genomics like genome engineering and iPS cell technology; energy and environmental issues, including the use of nuclear power; and social changes brought by ICT and related privacy and security issues.
The scientific community alone cannot address the problems we face today, because they are increasingly complex and because they are also beyond the control of any single country. Thus, it is essential that not only professional scientists, including scholars and researchers, but also policymakers and business leaders from all over the world gather and discuss science and technology issues from the long-term perspective,
i.e. 100 to 500 years, for the future of humankind.
This is the fundamental concept of the STS forum, where global leaders meet for three or four days at the forum's Annual Meeting in Kyoto in person or online on the first weekend of October.
In 2020, the STS forum received special messages from Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and from former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Honorary Chairman of the STS forum, who attended the Annual Meeting for the tenth time since 2006. Other prominent leaders attending in the past have included the prime ministers of France, Sri Lanka and Slovenia and the deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, in addition to many Nobel Laureates.
In 2020, our Annual Meeting was held virtually from Kyoto due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the participation of nearly 1,500 leaders from 120 countries, regions and international organizations, and including 15 Nobel Laureates. In addition to the 15-session online program including four sessions on COVID-19 issues, three peer meetings took place online— the Science and Technology Ministers' Roundtable, the Global Summit of Research Institute Leaders and the Academy of Science Presidents’ Meeting. These meetings were attended by 25 ministers, 26 research institute heads and 19 academy of science presidents. An adjunct meeting, “Regional Action on Climate Change (RACC)” was also held, which was attended by 190 participants. In 2019, the 16th Annual Meeting was held as a regular in-person event, with ten plenary sessions and 24 concurrent sessions on eight themes. There were also 11 side meetings, including the University Presidents' Meeting and the CEO and CTO Meetings. Although these side meetings were not held in 2020 due to the temporary change of meeting format, 41 university presidents, 49 CEOs and 30 CTOs took part in the 2020 annual meeting.
The STS forum launched a “Dialogue between Future Leaders and Nobel Laureates” in 2015, which is now called “Dialogue between Young Leaders and Nobel Laureates.” While it was not possible to offer this program in 2020, 129 young leaders participating in 2019 enjoyed stimulating discussions with 11 Nobel Laureates at the 16th Annual Meeting. The STS forum will continue to contribute to nurturing younger leaders in various fields by inviting them to our networking opportunities in Kyoto and elsewhere.
The STS forum is also active in organizing outreach activities in the form of workshops. In 2020, three workshops were held: an AA-STS Workshop in New York, an India Workshop in Delhi and a Russia Workshop (online). Planned workshops for ASEAN, the EU and Latin America had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
Now in its second decade, the STS forum has grown from a mere conference into a movement for global leaders to address science and technology-related issues for the future of humankind. We hope that many world leaders will join the STS forum Annual Meeting in Kyoto in order to “pave the way for future generations.”
Koji Omi was born in 1932 in Gunma Prefecture, Japan. After graduation from Hitotsubashi University in 1956, he joined the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). On an assignment with MITI, he served as Consul at the Japanese Consulate in New York from 1970 to 1974. He established his reputation for proactive action in acquiring up-to-date world energy related information during the first oil shock in 1973.
After assuming various key posts at MITI, such as Director of the South Asia & Eastern Europe Division, Trade Policy Bureau, and Director of the Small Enterprise Policy Division, Small & Medium Enterprise Agency (S & MEA), Koji Omi resigned from MITI in 1982 to run for the House of Representatives (lower house). He was elected in 1983 for the No.1 Gunma district with the largest number of votes won by a new independent candidate. During his 26 years of service until August 2009 in the House, Koji Omi held prominent positions in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and served three times as Cabinet Member namely Minister of Finance (2006 – 2007), Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs (2001-2002), and Minister of State for Economic Planning (1997 – 1998).
Koji Omi is considered a key political figure and one of the most influential in the field of science and technology in Japan. One of his achievements includes the central role he played in enacting the Fundamental Law of Science and Technology in 1995. This law has contributed greatly toward making Japan a science and technology-oriented nation. As Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, and for Science and Technology, Koji Omi advocated for, and was very influential in promoting, the founding of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, an international and interdisciplinary graduate university. In 2004 he founded the Science and Technology in Society (STS) forum, a non-profit organization, with the aim of building a worldwide network among scientists, policy makers, business people and journalists. STS forum has been successfully held annually in Kyoto, Japan, to discuss the “lights and shadows” of science and technology for the sake of humankind.
Koji Omi was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science Policy & Technology by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in 2013 and another honorary doctorate from University of York in January 2014, and from University of Quebec in June 2014.