Technology Assessment Worldwide: Successes and Challenges

Sunday, 16 February 2014
Regency A (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
David R. Cope , Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Investigations of the potential impacts of technologies that would today be called “technology assessments” date back at least to the middle/end of the nineteenth century.  However, the permanent institutionalisation of such investigations, in the context of provision of advice to legislatures, occurred first in the USA with the creation, almost exactly 40 years ago, of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).

Well before the OTA’s operations were suspended in 1995, various legislatures in Europe had taken similar initiatives – and in the years until technology assessment serving Congressional needs was re-established through the Center for Science, Technology and Engineering of the Government Accountability Office, the baton for the development of technology assessment has been firmly held on the European side of the Atlantic.

This presentation will look at how technology assessment has been developed by these various European agencies – both institutionally and in terms of actual practice.  It will offer a critical examination of a distinctive feature of European practices – the development of what is sometimes called “participatory technology assessment” – with a strong emphasis on public consultation and engagement – and juxtapose this against the further development of ‘conventional’ or ‘expert-based’ analyses of the type that characterised the output of the OTA.