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Home arrow Sociology arrow Policy-Oriented Technology Assessment Across Europe: Expanding Capacities

No future without a past

In order to reflect on the necessity of an ongoing conference platform, it is helpful to have a brief look at the historical development of the TA community in Europe. The major strands of development show that there is a shift from national activities to cross-European and international activities. Also there is an interest in widening the disciplinary community to interand trans-disciplinary work. The first meeting of the European TA community under the label of 'European Congresses of Technology Assessment' dates back to October 1982 when the Ministry of the Interior of the Federal Republic of Germany hosted a conference in Bonn that attracted some 60 experts from eleven countries – among them were representatives of the US Office of Technology Assessment. Congresses on TA later held in Amsterdam (1987), Milan (1990) and Copenhagen (1992) contributed significantly to the conceptualization, philosophy as well as institutionalization of TA. These conferences made clear that the European debate on TA took place on several levels – between international groups of scholars, experts, and officials who held a series of meetings during which methods of TA, the utility of its results and the possibilities and problems of institutionalizing TA agencies were discussed.

Another ongoing activity is the institutionalization of networks. During the last ten years, the institutionalization of the Germanspeaking 'Network Technology Assessment' (NTA) can be seen as a forerunner. Founded in November 2004 in Berlin, NTA aims to identify joint research and advisory responsibilities, to initiate methodological developments, to support the exchange of information and to strengthen the role of technology assessment in science and society. Today, ten years after this first meeting, there have been six scientific NTA conferences, ten annual member meetings and several meetings of the Network's working groups. The primary mission of NTA remains: to provide a platform for information and communication among scientists, experts and practitioners who work in the wide range of TA-relevant topics. [1] The NTA conferences are the central format of exchange among the German-speaking TA community. With decades of experience, the three main organizations of the Network for Technology Assessment (NTA) – the Institute of Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) in Karlsruhe, Germany; the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) in Vienna, Austria; and the Center for Technology Assessment (TA Swiss) in Berne, Switzerland – also brought their expertise to the PACITA project. Also, other PACITA partners, such as the Danish Board of Technology, the Norwegian Board of Technology, the Advisory Board of the Parliament of Catalonia for Science and Technology and the Rathenau Institute from the Netherlands have worked intensely and enduringly to realize TA in and for parliaments. Together with institutions from Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom, they are organized in the European Parliamentarian Technology Assessment Network (EPTA), which was established in 1990 by the president of the European Parliament. [2]

In general, the two PACITA conferences benefitted greatly from these traditions. The conferences of the 1980s and 1990s gave first insights into which topics were relevant for research and policy advice. They also showed how important it is to invite both the scientific community as well as practitioners and policy makers to one and the same event, enabling networking and cooperation on an international level. The EPTA network in particular was and still is exceptionally important to bringing up TA-relevant research topics to national parliaments. For the two PACITA conferences, these contacts are crucial to continuously strengthen the European TA community and to bring together interested researchers, stakeholders and politicians from all over the world. In the days of globalized problems like climate change or world-wide trade networks, this internationalization aspect is of special importance.

  • [1] All agendas and conference topics can be downloaded here: openta.net/nta-tagungen (in German).
  • [2] See also eptanetwork.org/about.php.
 
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