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The PACITA TA Portal

The core of this web platform is a database that covers four types of TA-related information: publications, projects, experts, and organizations. The users interact with the database via either simple or more detailed search forms. The results are presented in tabs and as a hypertext, allowing for browsing in the lists of results – for example, by jumping from a publication to its authors or from there to their home organization or to the related project. The users may also directly retrieve a list of the latest updates of the database (recent publications and more). See the following screenshot for an impression of the look and feel of the website.

The datasets are provided in a decentralized way by the participating TA organizations, harvested and stored centrally by the portal. Some of the data providers use automated scripts to transform the content of their local databases into the format prescribed by the portal; others do it manually.

figure 12.1 Homepage of the TA Portal (screenshot taken on 30 April 2015)

At the time of writing, the database includes datasets from 17 organizations, over 200 experts, 621 projects, and roughly 8200 publications. While the portal includes data from all PACITA member organizations and two other TA units (the US GAO and the German TAB), it is intended to have global reach, including relevant information from any organization that works in the field of technology assessment. As an obvious next step, further EPTA members (some are already part of the PACITA project and hence of the Portal) shall be included. Furthermore, a (two-way) bridge between the openTA and PACITA portals should be established to include data from further NTA members (some are already part of the PACITA project and hence of the Portal). Aiming to attract more content providers, PACITA has adopted a policy document that sets out in a transparent way the criteria for membership in the Portal. These include a definition of TA and of eligible TA organizations (individual persons cannot directly contribute content to the Portal).[1]

Beyond these core functionalities, the TA Portal has two further features: First, it recommends a few special Internet resources (currently ten, including the PACITA VolTA magazine and PACITA deliverable

2.2 on the comparison of existing PTA organizations). Second, on the homepage, a list of the latest TA news is presented. This is the first outcome of the cooperation between the TA Portal and openTA, as the latter provides a so-called widget to include the aggregated news on any website. The portal team currently negotiates with both the openTA team and other EPTA members to provide their news as a feed in English that contributes to the openTA news aggregator and consequently to a broader coverage of the TA news feed on the TA Portal.

In the mid-term, the TA Portal should be relaunched in version 2, including a number of additional features: a global TA calendar is on the agenda as well as an improved search engine that will allow one to find, for instance, particular types of publications (e.g. policy briefs) or of publications in specified languages. Furthermore, an interactive TA questions and answers forum could be included to make the site even more attractive. Users should be able to subscribe to an update service, sending emails to them on a regular basis with information about the latest TA publications or projects. Finally, there is a plan to set up (and include in the search) an open access TA repository for TA-related publications that are not included in one of the member organizations' websites. This would enable researchers affiliated with non-TA organizations, but publishing relevant articles, to include them in the TA Portal.

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