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

Introduction

Technology development and diffusion has no borders, nor have impacts, chances, and risks of new technologies. Despite this obvious fact, there are only a few endeavours to address technology assessment issues at the international level (in particular in a series of common EU projects, [1] such as PACITA), but most TA takes place in the national arena. The main reason for this is that technology governance, so far, is to a large extent national; furthermore, assessment is culturally bound and also dependent on local circumstances. Nonetheless, TA practice is increasingly international in the sense that it relies on a network that provides for the exchange of methods and personnel, as well as for mutual stimulation and enrichment when it comes to watching and assessing technology trends. The backbone of this network consists of regular conferences (EPTA, PACITA, NTA, and ITA series), journals, and two associations (EPTA and NTA). In line with, but following with some delay, the global trend towards cyber-science (Nentwich, 2003) and open science (e.g. Bartling and Friesike, 2013), the international TA community increasingly uses digital infrastructures for daily work and communication.

The earliest elements of this evolving e-infrastructure for technology assessment date from the late 1980s and 1990s (cf. Nentwich and Riehm, 2012; Nentwich, 2010). Most prominently, the German 'TA-Databank', operated by the ITAS in Karlsruhe from 1987 to 1998 (Berg and BückerGärtner, 1988), was an encompassing online database (still available on CD-ROM). By 1999 it contained datasets of over 570 institutions, approximately 3.400 projects and 7.000 publications. [2] From 1997 to 2013 the ITA in Vienna took care of the virtual library 'TA in the WWW', containing some 270 links. [3] A first attempt to establish a social network for TA practitioners on the basis of the Ning platform in 2008 by the NBT in Oslo attracted only a small proportion of the community (approximately 75 members in 2010; cf. Nentwich, 2010) and never showed much activity (it has been offline since 2013). Furthermore, the German TA network experimented from 2006 to 2012 on its previous website with a meta-search engine (on the basis of Google Custom Search) covering the content of the NTA member organizations' websites. In addition, some EU-funded projects resulted in web platforms offering specific TAand foresight-related tools and databases (listed in the section below). In the meantime, in particular in the framework of the PACITA project and the NTA network, new developments are under way.

The remainder of this chapter gives an overview of how digital means, mainly via the Internet, are used and needed both inside the TA community and vis-à-vis its addressees in politics and in society today. In the next section, the elements of this infrastructure are briefly described, followed by a longer section on the international TA Portal designed and implemented by the PACITA project team and by a concluding section with an outlook on the development of the e-infrastructure for TA. We argue that an increased online presence of the cross-European TA community would benefit European policy making.

  • [1] See Chapter 5.
  • [2] Cf. itas.kit.edu/1999_008.php.
  • [3] In 2014 this link collection is still available via the EPTA website at www-97.oeaw.ac.at/cgi-usr/ita1/tapl?site=epta.
 
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