Modern societies are exposed to numerous natural and man-made hazards, and governments are keenly motivated to reduce the resulting harm to the lowest practical levels. Science and technology are among the most effective tools that governments have at their disposal, and thus there is a clear incentive to design science policies in ways that both maximise the creation of knowledge, and the exploitation of that knowledge to protect individual citizens and society as a whole. In every hazard category (for example, floods, earthquakes, epidemics, chemical spills, releases of nuclear radiation, industrial and transportation accidents, unsafe lifestyle choices) there is a long history of applying science and technology to reduce the likelihood of harm, and to mitigate the consequences of incidents that do occur. To date, however, S&T applications for enhanced safety have usually been pursued primarily within single isolated S&T domains, and have not had to take into account the societal (sociological or psychological, i.e., human) dimensions of the technology and its applications. Only recently have the social and behavioural sciences begun to play a greater role. Advanced S&T-based solutions – where the human element is an integral part of the system whose overall safety must be enhanced – are becoming increasingly important and were the subject of the OECD Global Science Forum workshop.
The convening of a workshop on S&T for a Safer Society was approved by delegates to the Twelfth Meeting of the Global Science Forum in February 2005. It was hosted by the Delegation of Japan on Dec 5-6, 2005, in Tokyo.
The goal of the workshop was to assist policymakers by providing information, advice, and recommendations. The final report was prepared under the authority of the International Steering Committee, chaired by Prof. Hideyuki HORII (University of Tokyo). It contains findings and conclusions about the potential benefits of a strategic approach to the application of science and technology for enhanced social safety.