Written by Nera Kuljanic and Sara Cagol,
For STOA, Parliament’s in-house source for expert scientific advice on techno-scientific issues, 2014 was marked by continuity on the one hand, and important changes on the other, both aiming to enhance the quality, variety and relevance of STOA activities and products. These are summarised in the newly-published Annual Report 2014.
The changes had a positive impact on STOA’s structure and mandate. Following the European elections in May 2014, the new STOA Panel was convened by the EP Vice-President responsible for STOA, Mairead McGuinness, in October 2014. During that meeting the members of the STOA Panel elected Paul Rübig as Chair, and Eva Kaili and Evžen Tošenovský as First and Second Vice-Chairs respectively. Their mandate covers the first half of the 8th legislature.
As from 2014, STOA was tasked with a new responsibility: pursuing a foresight role in the areas of science and technology within the EP. To fulfil this part of its mission, STOA will work on identifying the widest possible range of long-term impacts of new, unknown or uncertain techno-scientific trends and developments, such as self-driving cars, drones, 3D-printing, graphene, virtual currencies and smart homes. All this to ensure that MEPs have the right tools at their disposal, to assist them in their work towards achieving desired futures for EU citizens.
The above comes, of course, in addition to STOA’s core task of assessing the impacts of relatively known and well understood techno-scientific developments related to current or programmed legislative parliamentary work, which STOA has carried out for the last 28 years.
Projects completed in 2014 touched upon such topics as measuring scientific performance, methanol-based transport, e-ticketing, cloud computing and social networks, and surveillance of IT users (Part 1 & Part 2). A number of new projects were launched, two of which were completed in the first months of 2015: deep-seabed exploitation and new technologies for teaching and learning.
Also in 2014, STOA hosted a number of workshops on the following topics: energy storage challenges, science and technology governance, operational research for improving health programmes, learning and teaching technologies, climate change, and the effect of ICTs on modifying our relationships, values, needs and rights.
The Annual Lecture is a highlight every year, and in 2014 featured Professor Thomas Südhof, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine, who gave a speech about brain function, neuroscience and shared his personal reflections on science governance.
You can keep up-to-date with our activities on blog, YouTube and on Twitter. Although STOA’s studies and briefings are destined to answer to specific parliamentary needs, by making them freely available online we hope they also attract the interest of, and become useful for, as many societal players and stakeholders as possible. We would value enormously your feedback on any STOA study or briefing you have read recently. Alternatively, complete the questionnaire (one available for each study), published on the STOA website (the link is above the author name).
2014 was a productive and rewarding year for STOA. More details are available in our Annual Report. We hope you will enjoy reading it.