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Improving policy-making through Technology Assessment

Written by Nera Kuljanic and Sara Cagol

Technology Assessment (TA) is ‘an analytic and democratic practice which aims to broaden the knowledge base of policy decisions by comprehensively analysing the socio-economic preconditions as well as the possible social, economic and environmental impacts’, according to Lars Klűver, Director of the Danish Board of Technology Foundation, speaking at the STOA Panel meeting on 21 May 2015.

© Neyro / Fotolia

The European Parliament already uses TA in its legislative activities. In 1987 it established its own permanent Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel, which provides Members and Committees of the European Parliament with independent, science-based evidence for policy-making.

Lars Klűver explained that the influence of TA on the legislative process varies greatly in different countries. PACITA, a four-year project (2011-2015) funded by the European Union under the 7th Framework Programme, offered a clear picture of the TA state-of-play, achievements and possible way forward. Although Parliamentary Technology Assessment (PTA) is organised and conducted in different ways worldwide, PTA share a final aim: to bridge the gap between policy-makers and the scientific community. PACITA, applying an expert-based approach, but also involving/consulting stakeholders and citizens, focused on three major cross-European projects, namely public health and genomics, ageing society and sustainable consumption. The projects delivered TA advice in different formats, according to the recipients and needs – from workshops and training, to the PACITA Manifesto and the publishing of the magazine volTA. For more information, visit the PACITA project’s website here.

The PACITA project was initiated by eight members of the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) network and a number of TA-like organisations, and aimed to increase capacity and enhance the institutional foundations of policy-oriented TA in Europe. STOA had observer status in PACITA, and STOA Panel members and staff attended PACITA meetings, conferences and a summer school.

Lars Klűver’s presentation to the STOA Panel was a good opportunity for MEPs to learn more about TA and how to make the best use of it to benefit European society. In summary of the discussion, Lars Klűver remarked that: ‘TA does not pretend to anticipate future developments and take away the uncertainty of decision-making, but to support society, politics and science in dealing with uncertainty in a pragmatic, rational and democratic manner’.

STOA is fully committed to taking up the challenges posed by the increasing influence that science and technology have on our society in full respect of democratic and inclusive practices, with the ultimate aim to foster ethical and responsible evidence-based decision-making.

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