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The main elements of the current TA e-infrastructure

From around 2010, actors in the TA community have started new initiatives to build up a modern digital infrastructure. The main fora of these activities are the German TA network (NTA), [1] the European Parliamentary TA network (EPTA), [2] and the EU-funded project Parliaments and Citizens in TA (PACITA). [3] In 2014 the e-infrastructure of the TA community included the following elements:

EPTA website and project database: For more than ten years the website of EPTA features an online project database, now containing almost 900 datasets with titles, keywords, project life spans, contact persons, descriptions, and links to further information.7 The content of the database is provided by the member institutions by more or less regularly filling an online form; the site and database is currently operated by the DBT in Copenhagen – in the future by ITA in Vienna, after a re-launch scheduled for 2015.

Videoconferencing: TA projects are often carried out by dispersed teams with staff from several organizations across Europe. Although TA practitioners also use face-to-face meetings, they have followed the general trend of international professionals by increasingly using videoconferencing tools, such as WebEx (e.g. in PACITA) and most frequently Skype, to meet. While these meetings are considered indispensable for specific purposes or occasions and best practices have evolved over time, experiences with network stability and technical quality of the services are still mixed.

TA on social network sites: As TA has an important interface with the general public alongside the political and the academic spheres, all TA organizations have public websites that communicate their identities and work. Many but not all TA organizations are now also present on the main social network sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Many also contribute to TA-related topics on Wikipedia (Nentwich, 2010). For most organizations, however, this work takes place with limited success and resources. EPTA and NTA as well as some TA projects like PACITA are also operating Facebook pages. Except for some individuals, Twitter is still used only sparingly by TA organizations or practitioners (cf. König, 2015).

TA-related tools: A few EU-funded projects resulted in databases of platforms serving specific purposes of the TA community. One such example is Doing Foresight, [4] a support instrument for activities/ projects on future-oriented policy analysis. Another is the Decision support on security investment (DESSI) Tool, [5] giving insight into the pros and cons of specific security investments. A third is the European Foresight Platform (EFP), providing briefs of foresight processes carried out in Europe. [6] The main problem with these tools and databases is, that after the end of project-related funding, they tend to be forgotten and not updated anymore. Furthermore, the international publications' repository, in particular the one for economic research papers (RePEc), provide the opportunity to organize TA resources on the Internet (cf. Moniz, 2015). [7]

NTA Fachportal openTA: In the framework of NTA, funded by the German research fund DFG and carried out by ITAS and ITAS' partners, the openTA portal is the latest newcomer of the e-infrastructure of TA, which launched in 2014. [8] The main elements of openTA currently are: an NTA members' (individual and organizational) database; a news aggregator, fed by the NTA member organizations; a common calendar of TA-related events (conferences, calls, teaching, lectures, etc.), also fuelled by NTA members; a TA blog; and an encompassing TA publication database that covers publications not only of the member organizations but well beyond the TA community, which is also fuelled by the German national library and other databases. The openTA portal is not intended to be a technology-oriented database project, but rather an 'innovation project for the TA community' (Nentwich and Riehm, 2012, Riehm and Nentwich, 2014).

PACITA TA Portal: Since 2011 one of the tasks of the EU-funded project PACITA was the establishment of a comprehensive portal for TA-related information in Europe and beyond. The task leader was ITA in Vienna. On 22 October 2012, the first version of the new service had been launched at the EPTA Council meeting in Barcelona. [9] The portal cooperates with the openTA initiative with a view to avoid duplication and exploit synergies.

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