Integrating Social-Scientific Literacy in Nuclear Engineering Education Approaches Developed in the GoNERI Program

Kohta Juraku, Cathryn Carson, Shinya Nagasaki, Mikael Jensen, Joonhong Ahn and Satoru Tanaka

Abstract This introductory chapter explains the historical background, outline, basic concept, and objective of the Program for Advanced Graduate Education system for nuclear science and engineering with Social scientific literacy (PAGES), under which the 2011 summer school was organized and this book was developed. Early efforts and trials in PAGES started in 2008 toward integrating social sciences in nuclear engineering education mainly by organizing summer schools as a test bed. Various important insights on how pedagogically effective integration could and should be achieved were obtained through the summer schools held in 2008–2010. When the Fukushima Daiichi accident occurred in March 2011, the organizing committee of the 2011 summer school, which consisted of the authors of this chapter, immediately recognized that this would be a time when PAGES faced a test with regard to its effectiveness, and the previous efforts under PAGES should be fully utilized to understand and address the accident. The organizing committee concluded that while it is still in its infancy, the PAGES approach successfully established an integrated framework for both engineers and social scientists. It changed the perspectives of the participants, both the students and the organizers, and it laid groundwork that the organizers hope that they and others will be able to build upon.

Keywords PAGES GoNERI Nuclear engineering education Social scientific literacy for engineers Integration Fukushima Daiichi accident

Preamble

Words such as “interdisciplinary,” “collaboration,” and “social aspects” had regularly appeared in various nuclear contexts since long before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident on March 11, 2011. It had already become common understanding that we need to bring together a wider range of knowledge and expertise to deal more appropriately with the place of nuclear technology in society.

This trend had also come to Japan at least about 10 years before the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Responding to that, the Nuclear Engineering Department of the Graduate School of the University of Tokyo was reformed in 2004, to integrate international, social, and even humanistic factors with conventional science and technology research and education. The new English name of the department was “Department of Nuclear Engineering and Management” (UTNEM) and its prospectus [1] describes its purpose as follows: “the Department is involved in international cooperation for education and research with added humanities and social science aspects, including sending its members to international organizations and prominent foreign universities.” The “Nuclear Socio-Engineering Laboratory” was established within UTNEM for exploring “the relation and interaction between technologies and human life” [2] by the strong initiative of Prof. Haruki Madarame,[1] who was well known as one of the most influential advocates of this direction. This laboratory had faculty members who specialized in social scientific fields such as Social Psychology, Communication Studies, Economics, Regulation and Legal System, Risk Studies, Social Studies of Science, and so on, and educated graduate and undergraduate students who worked on research topics closely related to such fields.

However, the “integration” of “humanities and social science aspects” was still only partial, strictly speaking. Even after the reformation described above, the group that studied social scientific topics on nuclear technology was somehow “separated” from the rest of department as conventional engineering research labs were the majority. From the point of view of an observant social scientist, the situation after the 2004 reformation at the UTNEM was just an “addition” of the social scientific part, appropriately suggested by the prospectus cited above. This addition model was not a totally meaningless change, of course, but it was not sufficient to cope with contemporary difficult issues centering around nuclear utilization in a so-called post-industrial society.

This process of “integration” seems to require a long-term effort to be accomplished. The Fukushima Daiichi accident clearly exposed the incompleteness of the past efforts at “integration,” as various chapters of this book discuss in detail; even in 2014, three years after the accident, it seems to be still on going.

The abilities required of leading engineers in this post-industrial era are not just to pursue technological development as prescribed (typically by governmental long-term plans or other national programs), but to grasp multi-dimensional needs for technology, to develop technology in collaboration with different stakeholders under a more open societal process, and to fulfill their social responsibility in compliance with values shared within society.

  • [1] After retirement from the University of Tokyo in 2010, Prof. Madarame became the Chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan.
 
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