Home Sociology Policy-Oriented Technology Assessment Across Europe: Expanding Capacities
The PACITA (Parliaments and Civil Society in Technology Assessment) project was funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement number 266649, which made the project possible.
We wish to thank the network for European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) for taking the initiative to launch PACITA. Special thanks also go to Member of the European Parliament, former Research Commissioner and former Chairman of STOA Philippe Busquin, as well as former Chairwoman of the Committee for Education, Research and Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag Ulla Burchardt, for driving debate on expanding technology assessment to all European member states, thereby providing a platform on which PACITA could unfold.
We are grateful to all those parliamentarians from the member states who involved themselves in the project and helped to further the debate. We are also thankful to the many stakeholders and citizens who chose to spend time participating in the example projects within PACITA.
Last but by no means least we wish to thank the international colleagues who supported the PACITA project with fresh insights and critical perspectives. For participation in the project's advisory panel, thanks go to Attila Havas, Gilbert Fayl, Nera Kuljanic, Theo Karapiperis, Timothy M. Persons and Wiebe Bijker. For taking time out to help shape this book, thanks go to Dionysia Lagiou, Hillary Sutcliffe, Josee van Eijndhoven and Karel-Herman Haegeman.
Introduction: On the Concept of Cross-European Technology Assessment
Rasmus Øjvind Nielsen and Lars Klüver
Abstract: Nielsen and Klьver introduce the concept of cross-European technology assessment developed in the PACITA project, the layers of which are unfolded in the
remaining chapters of this book. As a supplement to existing European institutions, cross-European technology assessment is a vision of a networked support system for national parliaments supplying process-support for knowledge-based and participatory policy making. As well as discussing
the possible role of such a support system within existing European frameworks of policy formation, Nielsen and Klьver propose the necessity of capacity building modelled on the concept of cross-European technology assessment as a means to counterbalance trends towards European centralization in the face of grand societal challenges.
Klьver, Lars, Rasmus Шjvind Nielsen, and Marie Louise Jшrgensen, eds. Policy-Oriented Technology Assessment Across Europe: Expanding Capacities. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. doi: 10.1057/9781137561725.0007.
European societies are pushed and pulled by tremendous forces in many directions at once. Science and technology has provided Europe and the world with incredible advances in production, health care, communication and almost any other aspect of human life. But our resource-hungry systems of production and consumption strain the supporting capacities of natural ecosystems, and we are moving from an era of abundance to one of scarcity. In a world of globally interconnected economies, systemic risks seem to increase exponentially and to far surpass the traditional managing capacities of nation states. Too often, however, the backbone reaction of decision makers is to invoke protocols of crisis management: gathering control in governmental centres and placing authority in the hands of narrow elites. In the case of the science-society relationship, large-scale research and innovation efforts accompanied by centralized social engineering regains prominence as decision makers attempt to take effective action. But while better knowledge and smarter solutions must undoubtedly be part of Europe's way forward, centralization in itself presents a danger to the social fabric of societies. Whenever societal decision making is disconnected from the perspectives of those that feel its consequences in their daily lives, alienation and dissatisfaction enters the relationship between governments and citizens. Attempts to address the grand societal challenges of our time must therefore first face the necessity of building capacities for effective democratic governance. Each step towards stronger centralized capacities for action must be accompanied by equal steps to build capacities for problematizing evidence, debating values and adapting solutions to fit local needs and cultural contexts.
The core message of this book is that technology assessment holds at least some of the needed answers for how we can build such decentralized capacities for knowledge-based democratic decision making. Technology assessment (TA) is a discipline of public administration that seeks to build bridges between research and innovation, society at large and political decision makers. To operationalize this institutional mission, a wide range of methods have been developed that enable TA organizations to dynamically address different gaps of knowledge and communication in different societal situations. As such, TA may be viewed as an institutional answer to the problem of governing research and innovation responsibly, where the problem of governance is seen first and foremost as a problem of decoupling between the different kinds of knowledge and different sets of values held by different societal actors.
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