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International Corner: News from European TA institutions

What is new in Europe’s TA scene? The third issue (winter 2016/2017) of the “International Corner” informs about the latest projects, publications and news from TA institutions all over Europe.
TA International Corner
Graphics based on NikNaks / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

Spring and fairer weather may still be some way off, but the landscape of European Technology Assessment is in full bloom already. Here is an overview of the latest news and current events:

NBT (Norway)

The Norwegian Board of Technology has been participating in the CIMULACT Project, and at the end of November we presented the results from our national citizen vision workshop.

In December the NBT published the Norwegian part of the report – The future of labour in the digital era: Norway. As a spin-off we have made an overview, describing the different ways governments have reacted to the sharing economy. The list describes current regulations in several countries and cities, and will be updated regularly.

January has been a very busy month. Our annual seminar on the International Data Privacy Day, which is co-hosted by the Norwegian Data Protection Authority was fully booked weeks in advance. This year’s report was about AI and personalization and describes opportunities and challenges for the public sector and financial services. We also presented results from a recent survey, the main finding of which is that most people are positive about the use of data and AI in order to uphold our welfare state (for instance keeping high school students in school, and catching tax evaders. However, few are willing to share data to “AI computers” belonging to an insurance company in order to get cheaper insurance (sorry, the report is in Norwegian only.)

We also organized a meeting with the parliament’s technology group “Teknogruppen” about Artificial intelligence. We accordingly released the publication AI – clever or frightening?

ITA (Austria)

With the autumn season came questions regarding autonomous vehicles, especially in regard to data protection. The results of this project were summarized by Jaro Krieger-Lamina. Media attention was sparked by the EPTA-conference, held at the Austrian Parliament at the end of October, with a discourse on policy advice having been triggered before the event.

For the first time the European Network for Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) was held in the Austrian Parliament on the 21st of October. The topic covered various aspects of digital work environments and their impact on the workplaces of tomorrow. A report with contributions of the member countries was published in November.

POST (United Kingdom)

POST has stayed quite busy since last summer, churning out 14 POSTnotes to date. A range of topics were covered, from Nuclear Security to Natural Capital, Trends in Infectious Disease, Automation and the Workforce, Genome Editing, and Creating Age-Friendly Cities, to name a few. A POSTnote on Integrity in Research co-authored by one our PhD Fellows was picked up by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee a few weeks ago, and an inquiry was launched immediately.

We also released POST’s Annual Report at our Annual Reception in January, with an address by Jo Johnson MP, who was appointed as Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation in July 2016. Discussions were mostly about the just-released Industrial Strategy for post-Brexit Britain, which lists ‘Science & Innovation’ as the top priority.

Outside the UK, POST is helping the Chilean Senate set up their own science advisory body, based on a mutual agreement signed in May 2016. A POST staffer visited Santiago in December to kick-start the process, with more visits between the countries planned for 2017.

TA-SWISS (Switzerland)

2017 will be a busy year for TA-SWISS, since it has the honor of resuming the presidency of EPTA and will host the EPTA conference, the topic of which is going to be “Mobility of the future” - certainly a core issue on our society’s path to sustainability. The conference will take place from November 7-8 in the ideal setting of the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland’s most popular museum showcasing the development of transport and mobility from the legendary Gotthard stagecoach to remote-controlled rover vehicles for missions on Mars.

In January, TA-SWISS has presented the results of its latest study analyzing the impact of digitalization on the media and democracy – a hot subject since Parliament will debate different media legislation issues this year and next, not least the role of the public broadcaster SRG SSR.

TA-SWISS is also launching two new studies: The first will be looking at the blockchain (call for tenders expired), while the second will analyze genome editing (call for tenders open until March 17, 2017).

ITAS (Germany):

Companies in the EU still lack experience in Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) practices. The new PRISMA project aims to show the added value of opening up the innovation process for social engagement, gender equality, transparency and other ethical issues.

Funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program ITAS together with partners from the Netherlands, Italy and the UK carries out eight Europe-wide pilot projects in a real-world industry context. They focus on implementing RRI for some of the major transformative technologies in the EU, including nanotechnology, synthetic biology, Internet of Things and self-driving or automated cars. The aim is to integrate RRI in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies of the participating companies.

The ITAS team led by Christopher Coenen and Maria João Maia will conduct one of the pilot studies. Furthermore, it is responsible for developing and conducting five stakeholder dialogues with actors from areas that are important and influential for RRI. Their input will feed into a RRI-CSR roadmap for transformative technologies in the European industry. (24.02.2017)

This newsletter brings together institutions from across Europe researching how science and technology is impacting our lives, society and legislation. Through publicising news of the many varied projects going on we hope to capitalise on sharing knowledge and address the problems that extend beyond national boundaries. If your TA institution wishes to contribute, please contact Jonas Moosmüller with your suggestions.