The European TA community has always been actively reflecting its own practice in order to further develop the concepts and methods of TA and improve its role as an intermediate between science, policy making and society. The loose cooperation in the EPTA network has led to a series of systematic reflections and cooperation in the form of joint projects, some of them funded by the European Commission.
- The EUROPTA project (Joss and Bellucci 2001) provided a first comparative account and assessment of the role of participatory methods aimed at involving either organised social groups as well as citizens in TA processes. The case studies provided by the EUROPTA project still serve as a reference for reflections on the political and societal role of participatory methods (Abels 2007). A handbook of participatory TA methods has been provided by one of the EPTA members (Steyaert and Lisoit 2005)
- The TAMI project (Decker/Ladikas 2004) provided an overview of the set of methods at hand for TA and took first steps in assessing best practices of TA for different types of issues and problem situations. Moreover the project by drawing on a set of concrete TA processes could give evidence of the broad scope of roles TA plays in preparing the ground for interaction between science, society and policy making and developed a conceptual framework for assessing the societal and political impact of TA.
- The European TA community also has faced with the challenge of taking account of the growing relevance of trans-national approaches. Examples of cross-national participatory TA projects are Meeting of Minds (2006), PRISE (2008) and the global World Wide Views on Global Warming (2009). The European Citizens´ Consultations give examples of relevant participatory work outside the field of science and technology.
- Concerning analytical TA, EPTA has carried out several pan-European projects, including ICT & Privacy, Genetically Modified Plants and Food, and Energy Transition in Europe. Furthermore, the Commission has funded some research projects involving cross-national TA, and the STOA Panel of the European Parliament has initiated projects that have been executed in cross-European project groups.
Not withstanding the broad scope of cross European activities and reflection that has been initiated by EPTA members, the European integration of national TA activities is lacking institutional structure and continuity. The further development of TA methods and the reflection and evaluation of best practice in parliamentary TA affords stable ground for more systematic mutual learning and there are new European challenges that have to be taken into account in the further development of the European TA landscape.
- The last systematic overview on the institutional state and mission of parliamentary TA in Europe is more than a decade old (Vig/Paschen 1999). Meanwhile the cooperation of parliaments and TA bodies has been further developed, new issues (e.g. ethics of life sciences) had to be taken up and dealt with in parliamentary TA and new forms of involvement of civil society in parliamentary debates have been tried out. A new overview and comparison of parliamentary TA practice is needed in order to make experiences with PTA available for informing discussions on the setting up of parliamentary TA structures in non-PTA countries.
- Since the last systematic comparison of the application of participatory methods in S&T decision making in 1999 (Joss and Bellucci 2001) the need for involving civil society in S&T decision making has been growing and has been widely acknowledged by political institutions in many European countries. The European Commission (2001) took the initiative for fostering the dialogue between Science and Society and the involvement of Citizens in S&T policy making. This has led to additional efforts to integrate and further develop participatory TA methods as well as to a critical reflection of the role of citizens participation that needs to be systematically taken up in current and future TA practice in Europe (The MASIS report 2009).
- A major step in discussing TA methods and different TA approaches as well as their impacts on society and decision-making has been made by the TAMI project. However, the analysis and concepts developed in the course of this project are waiting for being applied in cross European discussions on best TA practices beyond the limited scope of countries and institutions that have been involved in the project. It is time for a new round of debate on the methodological state of TA in Europe.
- Despite the successful establishment of parliamentary TA in many European countries, there always have been “white spots” on the European TA map. While the European Union has been growing steadily the TA landscape did not so during the last 10 years. In the new eastern European member states (as well as in some countries in the south of Europe) working TA structures still have to be established in order to foster the interaction between science and society and to induce scientific knowledge as well as public demands and interests in processes of S&T policy making. Expanding the TA landscape to EU 27 is the major challenge for European TA in the coming years (MASIS 2009).
With the integration of Europe, S&T issues become European issues. There is no doubt that embedding science in society affords reflections on national structures, problems, cultures and traditions. However, the need for cross European TA is obvious when large technological infrastructure as well as issues of regulation of new technologies go across national boarders. The first experiences with cross European TA studies have to be further developed, new methods and new modes of cross-national co-operation are needed. At the same time cross-European studies must involve those countries that so far do not have a functioning TA infrastructure. Further development of cross-European TA has to be combined with initiating learning and establishing TA structures in new member states.