New Tools for Science Policy

Inspirations from European Technology Assessments: Institutions, Practices and Key Debates

About the Seminar

March 21, 2024 9:00am—10:00am

Slides can be found here

Recording can be found below.

When Technology Assessment (TA) was introduced in Europe in the 1980s, the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) served as a main model and reference point for institutions and advisory practices. This seminar reverses the perspective by asking how experiences and insights from today’s diverse European TA community can be harnessed for science and technology policy advice in the U.S.

In the first part of the presentation, Anja Bauer, a visiting scholar from the Department of Society, Knowledge and Politics at the University of Klagenfurt in Austria, will briefly outline the current European TA landscape, highlighting different models of TA institutionalization. While several countries such as UK and Germany have adopted the parliamentary TA office model, other institutions, such as the Rathenau Institute in the Netherlands and the Institute for Technology Assessment in Austria, serve a broader range of functions and audience. Consequently, we find a variety of boundary arrangements between science and politics, accompanied by a plurality of modes and roles of TA.

The second part of the talk highlights key issues and debates of ongoing saliency in the European TA community. First, TA is embedded in wider developments and agendas of opening and democratization of expertise. While some TA institutions are leading the way in promoting deliberative practices and public dialogue, others are struggling with the integration of different forms of knowledge against the persistence of the modernist ideal of neutral expert advice. Second, we see increasing reflections on the explicit and implicit norms, values, and politics of TA vis-à-vis the claims of neutrality and impartiality. Third, TA’s critical role and advisory function have been incorporated in the European policy discourse on responsible research and innovation (RRI), giving impetus for new activities and roles.