History

History

In 2006, the National Taiwan University set up the Social Policy Research Center with the aim of promoting academic diversity and cross-disciplinary research and development. Professor Lih-Rong Wang from the Department of Social Work was the center’s first director (with a term lasting three years, and each appointment spanning two terms) and she was tasked with planning the activities at the center and promoting it. However, in recent years, Taiwan has faced dramatic changes due to globalization, which has resulted in challenges to Taiwan’s transformation on the global stage, as well as regionally and locally. As such, owing to the various environmental and technological risks, it was decided at the 2785th university-level administrative meeting in November 2013 that the Social Policy Research Center would be renamed as the Risk Society and Policy Research Center (henceforth referred to as the “Centre”) with Prof Kuei-Tien Chou from the Graduate Institute of National Development as the Chief Director, and with Associate Professor Kuo-Hui Chang appointed as the Executive Director from September 2016.

Today, when it comes to debates in Taiwan about social issues, such as in food safety and environmental pollution, policy formulation is often unclear and poorly communicated leading to mistrust between the public and the government as well as with businesses, resulting in undue confrontations. There is therefore an urgent need in Taiwan to intensify research in the area of policy formulation and effective communication, and to identify channels and platforms for these policies to be communicated to the citizenry. As such, tapping on the academic excellence at the College of Social Sciences, the Centre aspires to deepen our research skills and promote cross-disciplinary research and collaboration, to build communication bridges and connections between the government and the public. We look forward to receiving contributions from the international community to strengthen our research capabilities and resources, and to work together with them to effect social change and enhance risk communication, so that we can steer Taiwan out of the doldrums into a better and brighter future.

 

Inception

In recent years, the world is increasingly threatened by the globalization of risks and its impact, and the Taiwanese society is also being confronted with major changes, such as in poverty and the distributive justice of income and wealth, an aging population and low fertility, as well as social and security risks that our families, the elderly and new immigrants are exposed to, and other identity issues. Additionally, the Global Financial Crisis has led to economic and employment risks, etc., and transnational issues such as food pollution, emerging technologies, environmental risks, severe climate change and global warming, have greatly impact on our society and businesses and the development of sustainable economic growth and energy use. All these changes mean that Taiwan faces major transformational changes globally, regionally and locally, which therefore requires an urgent need to build strong foundations and to develop sustained research and practices regarding policies pertaining to social security, population issues, food safety, industrial development, environmental protection, energy use and climate change.

The Center was established with the focus to conduct research with an eye on the above issues, under two broad themes: (1) social security policies and on (2) science, technological and environmental issues, to promote sustained and in-depth discussions and to encourage greater social participation and commitment in dealing with these issues. Since inception the Center has taken the lead to introduce concepts from European Foundation on Social Quality approach, and conducted surveys to construct social quality indicators relevant to the Asian region, and to look at the present situation and changing trends in our society, to research on how they compare with the other countries in Asia. In addition, since the 2008 Financial Crisis, the Typhoon Morakot disaster in 2009 and the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 which triggered economic, environmental, nuclear and other health risks, the Center has proactively organized various academic seminars and forums, and invited overseas and local scholars to share on their resilience, reconstruction and transformation experiences, which has given our academic research center a hands-on understanding on the power of social practice. In recent years, with the emergence of various emerging social risks, environmental and technological risks brought on by globalization, these dramatic changes have long surpassed the scope of existing policies and research, and in fact its impact is no longer felt only within the confines of any one single discipline. In order to strengthen and deepen our research capabilities and establish effective communication strategies, the Center gradually focused its research on climate change and energy transition. Our core research is trained along these focal areas: 

(1) Establishing consensus for Taiwan’s energy transition and social transformation

(2) Governance of carbon-emission and air pollution in industrial and energy sectors

(3) Understanding the forces behind Taiwan’s energy system transformation: policy and legal perspectives

(4) Building a database of energy system transformation

 

Rationale behind Establishing the Center

Taiwan currently faces risks pertaining to food safety, environmental pollution, youth unemployment and economic slowdown. The public has the right to gain a deeper understanding of the emergence of the various types of risks and their corresponding influences, as well as the right to understand the processes behind how relevant policies are currently being formulated, implemented and evaluated. The Centre is premised on the idea that academia should seek to advance its work on the principles of social practice, and we therefore hope to use the past experience that we have accumulated in multidisciplinary research to proactively conduct in-depth research on emerging risks, and to present them to the wider audience and via public platforms so as to stimulate discussion between businesses and the public to engender cross-sectoral exchanges and mutual understanding. Our Centre is the first in Taiwan dedicated to the broadening and deepening of academic research in the discipline of risk society and policy research, and to also bring academics, practitioners and policymakers, etc., to conduct cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral exchanges via public forums. In addition, strong emphasis is placed on talent cultivation at the Center to develop knowledge-based research and build up the intellectual capacity in Taiwan, so as to break down the barriers to research between academia, practitioners and policymakers.

In recent years, the world is increasingly threatened by the globalization of risks and its impact. All these changes mean that Taiwan faces major transformational changes globally, regionally and locally, but these dramatic changes have long surpassed the scope of existing policies and research, and in fact its impact is no longer felt only within the confines of any one single discipline. For example, when debating about social issues, such as in food safety and environmental pollution, policy formulation is often unclear and poorly communicated leading to mistrust between the public and the government as well as with businesses, resulting in undue confrontations. The public has the right to gain a deeper understanding of the emergence of the various types of risks and their corresponding influences, as well as the right to understand the processes behind how relevant policies are currently being formulated, implemented and evaluated.

Today, Taiwan urgently needs to intensify research in the area of policy formulation and effective communication, and to identify channels and platforms for these policies to be communicated to the citizenry. To this end, research lies at the heart of everything that the Center does and it is committed to conducting research to generate new knowledge. With the Center’s existing network of cross-disciplinary research resources, and with the relevant experts, scholars, and practitioners that we have regular access to, who also have interests aligned to the Center’s medium- to long-term research orientation, this can aid in strengthening the capabilities of our researchers, which comprises postdoctoral research fellows, assistant researchers and part-time assistants. In this way, we can engage in in-depth and extensive debates on the various major social risks in Taiwan to develop practical and substantive policy recommendations. In addition, the Center believes that it shoulders the responsibility to establish our research in the areas of public policy and social protection, and to promote cross-disciplinary communication and exchanges, so as to bridge the gap between academia, policymaking and practice, and to utilize face-to-face events, and online and digital marketing to disseminate knowledge. In time to come, academic research will no longer be seen as challenging, and the role of research then is to advance the knowledge of our citizenry and aid in the bottom-up transformation in Taiwan.

 

Copyright © 2018. 風險社會與政策研究中心.Risk Society and Policy Research Center, National Taiwan University.