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Building Community – Or Why We Need an Ongoing Conference Platform for TA

Constanze Scherz, Lenka Hebбkovб,

Leonhard Hennen, Tomбљ Michalek, Julia Hahn

and Stefanie B. Seitz

Abstract: As a background for current outlooks towards strengthening the technology assessment (TA) community, Scherz et al. give a historical overview of efforts to establish international fora for communication among professionals and researchers in TA. Against this background, the

article conveys experiences from the first two bi-annual TA conferences, arranged in the context of the PACITA

project. The authors describe experiences of mutual learning across national boundaries and communicate a renewed understanding of the necessity for supporting TA capacities at the national level through professional community building. Ultimately, Scherz et al. argue that a European TA platform is necessary for establishing a common language for TA and for supporting the spread of TA across borders.

Klьver, Lars, Rasmus Шjvind Nielsen, and Marie Louise Jшrgensen, eds. Policy-Oriented Technology Assessment Across Europe: Expanding Capacities. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. doi: 10.1057/9781137561725.0022.

Conferences are a promising format to include an extended range of European, national and regional stakeholders – especially with a focus on widening the debate of TA in Europe. Therefore, they are important under several aspects: for scientists from several disciplines in order to discuss interand trans-disciplinary approaches and projects as well as for TA researchers to get in contact with their target audiences, such as citizens, policy makers or scientists from other disciplines.

This chapter deals with the question of how conferences can encourage mobilizing stakeholders to establish TA capacities while creating awareness regarding the benefits of cross-European TA throughout Europe. Thus, it reflects on the format of TA conferences as such and gives brief insights into two international conferences, which took place in Prague (2013) and Berlin (2015). Our main argument is that TA can act as a 'knowledge broker' between scientists and policy makers (Riedlinger, 2013). In our experiences, TA and its conferences can provide unique spaces for 'discourse'. Yet at the same time, these discourses need continuity and ongoing activities, which include already established networks as well as new contents, methods and people.

It is in these spaces for discourse that the conceptual basis of TA is reflected upon and further developed. Being a problem-oriented approach, TA needs areas of exchange to enable 'identity-shaping' and adaptation to current challenges. Especially in contexts where its institutionalization is still under development, TA requires formats, which enable mutual learning and critical self-reflection. With recent concepts such as Responsible Research and Innovation emerging, TA has to reflect on how it can contribute and/or offer its wide experiences in various contexts. Further, the format of conferences also offers a useful and inspiring atmosphere for younger researchers and practitioners who are working in the field of TA to present themselves and their questions and to engage in exchange with the wider TA community.

The ambitious goals of the two conferences within the PACITA project were to address the grand transitions and grand challenges that define our societies as a whole. This frame set the scene for presenting and discussing TA research at the conferences and at the same time for offering fruitful spaces of encounter to further strengthen and foster TA as a concept and approach by including all its significant actors (e.g. researchers, practitioners and policy makers). For this, it also seems important to reflect on the experiences already made with international TA conferences within the community in order to guarantee a high quality of conferences' input, integrative formats and inspiring topics.

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