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Making it work – the context of the two European TA conferences

As a mobilization and mutual learning project, PACITA aims to bring together established TA institutions and new actors. Consequently, scientific conferences are at the very heart of the project's mission: they intensify the debate on TA and have the potential to expand the landscape of TA in Europe. There is a special focus on the methods and activities in which citizens and policy makers are directly involved in debates and discussions. 'Such “interactive” methodology has proven to be a specific trademark for Technology Assessment and is of special interest today when the focus of research and innovation is turned towards the Grand Challenges of our societies' (Klüver, 2014: 12). Further, conferences provide a platform for scientists with practical experiences as a result of doing TA and for politicians that are addressees of TA research and its results. The two PACITA conferences, held in 2013 and 2015, were the first European TA conferences in more than two decades. In general, the feedback from the conference attendees showed clearly the need for further continuous exchange, networking, discussions and documentation. 'Technology Assessment has shown to be a practice still in the making and continuously expanding its reach and borders, which gives hope for a future with a larger and more branched-out professional community' (Klüver, 2014: 12).

These two major European TA conferences fostered and enhanced the scientific debate about TA as well as the exchange of TA experiences on a European level. The main aim of these and PACITA's ongoing activities is to establish a European network of institutions and persons from the academic world, from scientific policy advice and from policy making. The conferences present an important context for this. With an informative and interactive format, the conferences aimed to bring together several different disciplinary communities. Adopting a broad understanding of what qualifies as 'TA' allowed the conferences to address TA practitioners, academics, scientists, policy-makers, and CSO representatives together. In retrospect, the conferences succeeded in delivering a two benefits ways. On the one hand they offered a broad platform for presenting and reflecting on project results, its outcomes and new insights. On the other hand, they helped to set the stage for current and future thinking about TA and its role in tackling the societal challenges ahead.

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