Home Sociology Policy-Oriented Technology Assessment Across Europe: Expanding Capacities
Benefits of cross-European TA
Based on the challenges related to European projects, it is important to identify the defining elements of cross-European TA and to understand what makes technology assessment an important contributor for policy advice in Europe.
The emerging technologies debated in different countries are more or less the same. But contexts and timing of discussions, and the shaping of technologies, will differ nationally. Thus, cross-European TA can contribute to agenda setting and provide policy support at the European level and at the same time inform national science and technology discourse. This has already been identified in the area of European science policy, moving from 'science in Europe' to 'European science' (Nedeva and Stampfer, 2012). Focus has moved from coordination of national projects to the development of a more integrated, pan-European science base. When topics are relevant across borders, it's reasonable to think that it would be more effective to make projects on a cross-European basis rather than have every TA unit do similar projects in their country/ region.
In the 1970s, when TA started to get institutionalized in Europe, the influence of the American tradition of TA was evident. However, as argued by Norman J. Vig (2000), the European approach to TA turned out as more of a democratic project than it had been in the US, where the focus had mostly been on creating an informed policy debate on science and technology issues. Introducing TA in the diverse and culturally varied Europe, TA became a strong instrument in the democratic process, providing independent and thorough advice for parliaments, based on participation of a broad group of actors. This is also one of the reasons for the survival of these organizations, Vig argues: they have proved useful for parliaments.
For TA institutions
PACITA is in itself a good example of how TA institutions benefit from doing cross-European projects. PACITA strengthened the ties between the existing TA units, and it also helped establish a strong base for further institutionalization of new initiatives in Europe. Doing PACITA's three example projects proved that participation in cross-European projects is highly productive from a practitioner's point of view. The cooperation provided institutional learning and an exchange of experience between TA practitioners, and the hands-on experience from the projects created enthusiasm for TA both among the participating institutions who were new to the field and among the policy makers who received the results.
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