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Dr. Wi-Chin Song, Senior Research Fellow
Date 2018.05.29 Hit 701
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Dr. Wi-Chin Song
Senior Research Fellow

△ Dr. Wi-Chin Song, Senior Research Fellow, majored in History of Science and Technology and Science and Technology Policy and has worked at STEPI as the Head of Social Innovation Research Team, Director of Innovation Policy Research Center, and Director of Planning and Coordination. He has mainly focused on introducing new concepts such as NIS and post catch-up, and creating a forum for discussion, and has been continuing research on science technology and society. He is also pursuing social problem-solving projects such as ‘Living Lab’ that citizens can participate, and he dreams to be a science technologist who innovates society. The following is an interview with him.






What is your current interest?
I am interested in creating a new policy research model. If policy research in the past has been objective determination about a specific research subject and creating policy alternatives for it, I am rather interested in participation type. Namely, various stakeholders such as public officials, governments, businesses, researchers, and civil society organizations work together to set a research topic and develop. An example of practicing this is the living lab. It's different from the past. The way we did was in line with the demands from researchers or public officials, which was not the demands from citizens. In fact, public officials do not know about citizens’ demands, so I want to refine such a model that everyone studies together.


How did you come to work at STEPI?
When I was a college student, I was more interested in science technology and society than oceanography which was my original major. One day, I was preparing a symposium on this issue at the university, so I visited KIST Technology Development Evaluation Center (former organization of STEPI) and could get data and had some interviews. After that, I studied science technology and society at a graduate school and naturally got interested in STEPI. Like a fate, STEPI became my first and last job. 


Did you study science technology and society from the beginning?
I worked at the Technology Society Room at first. At the time, however, discussions about science technology and society were not well received. I think it was in the periphery. So was innovation research. Now everyone takes the innovation system for granted, but not at that time. It was treated as sociology study. I think it has changed a bit quite recently.


What was the most memorable thing for you while working at STEPI?
My main work was introducing or creating new concepts. In the beginning, I studied and introduced National Innovation System (NIS), after that, I worked on creating the concept of Post Catch-up, and then on the theme of solving social problems. Looking back at the past, I think they were all new content. So I had a lot of difficulties. They were all new things in policy research, so I kept repeating the task of mainstreaming them, and it seemed like I was living that way. I was not used to the discussion with existing frame, and I remember that I did a lot of pioneering new researches.


Recently, you did a press interview about the research on people's life. Could you tell us about that?
It is not a very different concept from social problem-solving type technology innovation. It's just a term used by the Ministry of Science and ICT when setting the scope of a new research area. From the standpoint of the ministry, we have set up three research areas by adding the research on people’s life on the existing basic origin research and the industrial innovation research. Largely, these researches are responding to social problems that our society faces and social challenges, but this term is more citizen-friendly. It is used as a proper noun at the current ministry.


What are the current demands from civil society?
As we all know, people are interested in various issues such as fine dust, green tide, chemical safety, avian flu disposal, artificial intelligence, and infectious diseases. These social agendas are in some way related to science and technology, but the field of science and technology have not been interested in them. But now it's time for science and technology field to answer. In this context, social problem-solving type projects and living labs are receiving attentions.


You are currently continuing social problem-solving type researches, and what are you focusing on now?

First, I want to switch the framework. We basically saw science and technology innovation with the eyes of science technologist, the eyes of businesses, and the eyes of public servants, but now we have to look at it with the eyes of people. As a citizen, I need to change the frame to look as a general citizen. Secondly, I am recognizing that such social challenges and problems are not solved at once, and looking for a solution to that. To solve the problem, we need to make a big system change related to the problem. I am looking for action plans with these two transformational perspectives.


What does it mean to live as a researcher?
I think researchers are privileged people. Therefore, we have to be public and play a role in making our society better through research activities and discourse formation. Recently, people talk about Social Innovator, and a researcher has to be a social innovator. A researcher is the person who makes our society more sustainable and human. Hence, I think it is a quite honorable job. I see social problem-solving type researchers around me, and they are proud of their contribution to the society through researches; and more and more researchers consider themselves as social innovators.


What was the hardest thing in your life as a researcher?
I always tried new concepts and research methods, so it was hard to break the existing framework. I think I wrote a lot, continued forming discourses, received feedbacks, and researched again, and repeated this process endlessly.


What advice would you like to give to junior researchers? 
I think it is necessary to search for a new topic and agendicize it. Many management organizations can solve given problems well. I hope researchers are more interested in initial process which is finding new agenda and institutionalizing it. I think it also suits for the role of STEPI.


Which research activity do you want to finish during the rest of your time as a STEPI researcher?
I want to achieve social problem-solving innovation policy to become mainstream. Starting from 2013, I think we have just finished the first round. I hope that the research methods and practices will change beyond simple institutionalization, and the policies that contribute to social development are settled. In the process, we are currently in the process of experimenting living labs and other things.


Lastly, what is your motto or slogan if you have one?
Let's change the world. Researchers are social innovators.