Requirements for realizing cross-European TA

An essential element of TA is the notion of independence. This refers to the independence of TA institutions from stakeholders' interests and influence, as well as the independence from funders and policy makers themselves. Independence is important to maintain the TA institution's credibility, and it will strengthen the reputation of TA in Europe at a more general level. Giving well-founded and independent advice is one of the main strengths of TA, compared to policy advice from NGOs and lobby groups, who have their own interests in mind.

Future cross-European TA initiatives should be both inclusive and diverse. Acknowledging that others see similar challenges but deal with them differently can lead to knowledge and new perspectives. CrossEuropean TA can contribute to agenda setting and policy support at the European level and at the same time inform national science and technology discourses. The PACITA project had a variety of partners, not only traditional PTA institutions. The diversity of the consortium combined with the cultural backgrounds of the countries and regions involved created a learning process for all partners – and contributed in new knowledge production for policy makers. However, there will always be challenges related to cross-European participation and national financing. Seeing that the financial situation of the different national and regional institutions varies, it is difficult to ensure the diversity of TA on the European level.

In the last few years, the field of TA has changed. Several institutions have been transformed and reorganized, and one can see a need to broaden the scope of European TA, from purely parliamentary TA (PTA) to forms of TA that approach policy making in a broader way. PACITA's efforts in expanding TA throughout Europe highlight the democratic approach to TA that is taken in Europe, and the introduction of TA in new countries, regions and cultures will add value to policy makers and the TA community. A more permanent and stable presence of TA at the European level also will serve as important support for TA initiatives in the future.

Creating a permanent and stable presence of TA on the European level, and making it easy and desirable for TA institutions to participate in cross-European projects, demands more systematic funding than is provided today. The experiences from previous TA projects might seem to argue that as long as there are funding mechanisms available, such as the EU framework programmes, then cross-European TA will continue to exist. However, there is a strong belief that cross-European TA can grow even stronger if there is more systematic financing for crossEuropean cooperation, which is not limited to individual projects. A continuous presence, such as in the format of a TA Platform, will make a stronger impact than individual national institutions coming together for projects now and then (see also Part III of this book).

There has been an increase in cross-European initiatives in the field of TA. This is reflected in the number of projects, the number of participants and the involvement of new countries and institutions. The TA community in Europe has historically been oriented towards producing policy advice for national and regional parliaments. Because of the shifting landscapes in Europe, it makes sense to extend the addressees to a wider group of policy makers. This move will give greater opportunities for making an impact in a wide range of policy processes. At the same time, it will open the field of TA to participation of a broader group of institutions, not only the 'traditional' institutions doing parliamentary technology assessment. A variety of institutions are now active in the field of TA in Europe. They all have to find their own strategies for how to be agile and flexible enough to participate at European level, yet at the same time deliver results to the national policy makers.

The three example projects organized during the PACTIA project have provided insights on three of the grand challenges that our societies will face in the coming decades. The approaches made available through technology assessment has produced important input for policy makers and also demonstrated the important role that institutions for technology assessment can play at the national and the European level. Experiences from these three projects highlight especially two methods that work well on the cross-European level: citizen summits and scenario workshops. Having a common starting point (information material or futureoriented scenarios) in national activities gives the approach a common thematically starting point, but it also allows room for the cultural and social differences in countries and regions. This also produced output that is valuable for national, regional and European policy makers.

Final words: making an impact

In the end, the goal of TA is to make an impact on policy making. And its 'impact' can be manifold. It can contribute to bringing new or independent knowledge to science and technology themes or to the related societal aspects in policy-making processes; it can contribute to agenda setting; it can act as a mediator or facilitator between stakeholders; or it can lead to new policies or regulations being made (Decker and Ladikas, 2004).

Even though some institutions have formal relationships with important policy makers, these policy makers are not demanded to act upon the advice coming from the TA community. One of the main characteristics of TA is its way of bringing together knowledge from a broad group of actors into the production of independent and well-grounded policy advice. By using existing as well as by further developing traditional methods, the TA community should strive to enhance evidence-based policy making at the national, regional and European levels.

The developments and discussions related to science, technology and society move forward with increasing pace. In order to advise policy makers on these developments as they unfold, TA institutions must be present and in contact with their target groups at all levels. Seeing that these developments happen on a European level and an international level, the need for cross-European TA is evident. Cross-border knowledge exchange and learning is highly relevant for policy makers in our societies today, and cross-European TA represents one way of making this happen.

Case studies based on the following projects:

� Energy transition in Europe (2007)

� Genetically modified plants and foods (2009)

� ICT and privacy in Europe (2006)

� Energy transition in Europe (2007)

� Genetically modified plants and foods (2009)

� ICT and privacy in Europe (2006)

� Challenges of Biomedicine (2007)

� CIVISTI (2011)

� Meeting of Minds (2006)

� Study on Human Enhancement (2009)

� Nanosafety (2011)

� Technology Options in Urban transport (2011)

� PACITA example projects: Personal Health Genomics, the future of ageing and sustainable consumption (2013–15)

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >