Home Sociology Policy-Oriented Technology Assessment Across Europe: Expanding Capacities
Ways forward: Possibility structures for TA
For the Central and Eastern European countries, it can be stated – albeit with a few notable exceptions, such as the Czech Republic (see above) – that the concept of TA was widely unknown before the PACITA project introduced it. An aim of our exploration was to first make the relevant actors aware of the idea behind the concept of TA and its practical workings as a tool of policy advice in order to encourage them to reflect and discuss the possible relevance of the concept in their national academic and policy making setting as a second step. This was done with quite some success at the national workshops that were organized as part of the exploratory research. The discussion of the TA concept and its societal outcomes and benefits was continued in the course of the PACITA project, namely by a parliamentary hearing on a European Future Panel on Public Health Genomics as well as by a stakeholder process on urgent questions of the Ageing Society (see Chapter 6 and Chapter 7). Whereas the topics provoked different responses dependent on national political agendas, the format of public dialogue raised intense interest in participatory TA methods in all countries, which resulted, for example, in broad media coverage of the TA events in Hungary and in a stronger commitment of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to the idea of TA.
Possible institutional models
When it comes to policy options, especially with regard to the further development of a TA infrastructure, the country studies propose different paths which are categorized in the following sections.
Supporters of parliament (Ireland, Portugal and Wallonia)
In Wallonia, Ireland and Portugal, members of parliament or of parliamentary committees expressed their interest in TA, thus parliament was selected as main addressee for TA activities in these countries. The process is furthest advanced in Wallonia where a parliamentary mandate for TA was given in 2008. Ireland and Portugal are at the beginning of such a process, as both parliaments have expressed an interest in TA. In both countries, the parliaments have a rather weak political role. Whereas in Ireland TA is regarded as a possibility to strengthen the role of parliament (O'Reilly and Adam, 2012: 162), in Portugal the advantages of a TA unit in parliament is seen as a possibility to support the country's 'political, social and economic' development (Almeida, 2012: 237).
In all three countries, the explorations advise using existing institutions for future TA activities to draw on national academic expertise in S&T. Furthermore, a special interest is expressed for participatory aspects in a future TA unit, either to create the first, to improve national experience with methods of participation, or to include relevant stakeholders and the public in political decision making in S&T in the future.
The innovative explorers (Bulgaria and Lithuania)
The national recommendations developed for Bulgaria and Lithuania present a new model for a national TA landscape: the network model. The model basically implies that a network of existing institutions collectively take on the task of delivering TA services coordinated by one organization perceived as legitimate by all involved. In both countries, there was very little prior experience with TA or TA-like activities. However, during the research activities, TA was identified as 'an unrecognized need' (Leichteris and Stumbryte, 2012: 200) by some of the relevant decision makers. The main function of such a network model is to raise awareness of S&T topics in the public and by decision makers in relevant political fields. Both countries consider it helpful to start with a pilot project (similar to the starting phase of some established TA institutions in the 1980s and 1990s; cf. Ganzevles and van Est, 2012) in order to 'prove' the national relevance and to increase the understanding of the TA concept and its 'products'. In Lithuania, this 'proof of concept' is currently set into practice by a group of institutions form academia, public administration and civil society with a range of policy briefs prepared for policy makers to 'showcase' the use of TA (see also Chapter 3).
The institutional traditionalists (Czech Republic and Hungary)
The Czech Republic and Hungary make up a third group. In both countries, the Academies of Sciences are decisive players in the field of S&T policy. Furthermore, the national academies in both countries have been in contact with TA or TA-like activities (especially foresight and S&T studies). Both evaluate the 'system barriers' (Pokorny et al., 2012: 80) in the current political context as being quite strong and are thus pessimistic about the future establishment of a TA unit. Barriers to be dealt with include a lack of options for national funding, a lack of trained personnel, but also a general lack of interest from the decision-making sector in S&T as well as the public. Interestingly, during the course of the PACITA project, triggered by accompanying activities such as practitioner meetings and participatory events, the academies in both countries got more and more convinced and thus interested in TA-like activities (see also Chapter 3).
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