Research Center on Ethical, Legal and Social Issues, Osaka University

Since the Declaration at the 1999 UNESCO World Conference of Science in Budapest, science and technology in the 21st century has been required to play a role as a public good that contributes to humanity’s grand challenges. Governments and industries in each country are investing heavily in research and development of new and emerging science and technologies, and it is expected that overall wellbeing within society will be improved through their uses. This will force a change in the style of research and development in science and technology. It is necessary for us to consider which factors will improve well-being and how each science and technology contributes to it from the early stages of research and development. In other words, in addition to pursuing the excellence of science and technology, ELSI being identified and addressed appropriately at an early stage becomes essential to achieving research and development. Such examinations could guarantee an effective research environment.

With this awareness in mind, Osaka University established the Research Center on Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (“ELSI Center”) in April 2020 as a comprehensive body for research on ELSI of emerging science and technology. The center has the following four functions:

  • To study the response to and governance of ELSI by integrating knowledge of the social sciences and humanities across academic disciplines.
  • To become a hub to connect researchers with knowledge of ELSI in various academic fields to researchers engaged in the research and development of emerging science and technology.
  • To connect stakeholders such as business, government, and citizens by conducting workshops on ELSI of emerging science and technology.
  • To provide educational courses to foster human resources that can contribute to the identification, assessment, and response to ELSI (ELSI human resources).

The establishment of this center is positioned to be at the heart of achieving the goal of becoming a “world-leading innovative university that will contribute to social transformation” through co-creation with society. The rapid development of emerging technologies—such as life sciences and information technologies—has the potential to make a significant contribution to humanity. However, to fully take advantage of the benefits, considering ELSI is inevitable. This center promotes a wide range of research exchanges both inside and outside the university, activates interdisciplinary research, and presents new innovation models that contribute to the wellbeing of society by integrating the knowledge of sciences and technologies with social sciences and humanities.

We sincerely request your support and participation.

NISHIO Shojiro
Osaka University President


Activities and organization

  1. General Research Division
    The General Research Division focuses on the identification of ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) at each stage from research and development to utilization of emerging science and technologies, the initiatives that are expected of each stakeholder to tackle ELSI, and the inclusive and sustainable governance of ELSI for emerging science and technologies.
  2. Practice Research Division
    The Practice Research Division focuses on collaboration with academic researchers and businesses developing emerging science and technologies to find potential ELSI at an early stage, assess their impact, and help promote innovation by responding to them proactively, and conducting joint research projects by matching ELSI researchers chiefly associated with the Social Sciences and Humanities.
  3. Collaborative Research Division
    The Collaborative Research Division conducts workshops with various actors related to the introduction of emerging science and technologies as an initiative to connect stakeholders outside the university and to deliver a wide range of citizens’ voices to industry and government agencies. Moreover, it aims to contribute to the promotion of research and development based on collaborations with various stakeholders and to this end, conducts research on how to make policies for and how to put into effect new science and technologies through various practices.

Development of ELSI human resources

The three divisions collaborate to develop various ELSI education programs, which are not limited to the campus, but are also widely extended to industry and public sectors; they create ELSI human resources, and establish their status in society.