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E-Infrastructure forTechnology Assessment

M. Nentwich

Abstract: Nentwich gives an in-depth account of developments within the TA community towards a common e-infrastructure for technology assessment (TA). The author argues that while technology development is genuinely international, there are too few endeavours to address technology assessment (TA) issues internationally; likewise, there are no sustainable online platforms for knowledge sharing, dissemination and public debate as yet. The PACITA project partners therefore worked to establish such an infrastructure by means which the article details. Creating and sustaining a strong, interactive e-infrastructure for

cross-European TA is both greatly challenging and worthwhile as it would ultimately help to nuance and possibly even democratize European science, technology and innovation policy. Nentwich therefore argues for the continuation of these efforts by central actors in and supporters of TA.

Klьver, Lars, Rasmus Шjvind Nielsen, and Marie Louise Jшrgensen, eds. Policy-Oriented Technology Assessment Across Europe: Expanding Capacities. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. doi: 10.1057/9781137561725.0023.

While technology development is genuinely international, there are only few endeavours to address technology assessment (TA) issues internationally; likewise, there are no sustainable online platforms for knowledge sharing, dissemination and public debate as yet. Creating and sustaining a strong, interactive e-infrastructure for cross-European TA is both greatly challenging and worthwhile as it would ultimately help to nuance and possibly even democratize European science, technology and innovation policy.

Recently, the international TA community started facing this challenge and increasingly produces digital infrastructures for daily work and communication as well as for outreach. This chapter presents elements of current e-infrastructures and practices. A particular focus is on the new TA Portal launched by the PACITA consortium in 2012. This portal has the potential to become a one-stop service and exchange platform for both TA practitioners and those interested in technology policy and TA in general. However, in order to reach and sustain its full potential, this core e-infrastructure for TA needs to become more than a database with interesting and potentially useful content. The article argues that the portal should turn into a dynamic and interactive platform.

We distinguish the following main elements of TA e-infrastructures as they exist today: the EPTA website and project database; videoconferencing tools as used in international projects; outreach activities of TA on social network sites such as Facebook and others; a few TA-related tools and databases; the Network for Technology Assessment's web portal openTA; and the PACITA TA Portal. The core of the latter is a database that covers TA publications, projects, experts, and organizations. Furthermore, the Portal recommends selected TA-related Internet resources and offers a list of the latest TA news on the homepage. The TA Portal is a work in progress; plans to enhance its functionality, described in the following, are being implemented.

By devising the TA Portal, by coordinating the joint international effort to filling the database, and by reflecting the usability and usefulness for future activities, we learned that it is both an enormous challenge in technical, conceptual, and organizational terms, and it is a promising opportunity. While putting in place a schema and (semi-)automatic procedure to fill a database with useful information was (and is) a big effort, it still is only half the story. Turning the Portal into a lively platform that serves the TA community and that connects it to its addresses and interested actors across Europe demands a far greater effort. Such a platform would be not only a technical tool but also a social enterprise. In order to activate its content, editing staff is needed with a mandate not only to disseminate results but also to advocate the balanced results reached by TA methods for incorporation into the European debate.

Reaching the full potential of the TA e-infrastructure in the making and scaling it up needs:

� An electronic infrastructure for TA practitioners that can also serve as a platform for debate and policy support demands financial resources and time to incorporate lessons learned on a continuous basis.

� A permanent cross-European TA network with a sustainable

budget to support editorial or facilitating functions.

 
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