TA for a changing world

ITA and ITAS, the two major TA institutions in Austria and Germany, are currently trying to figure out the role of technology assessment in a world that is shaped by COVID-19.
Grafitti Maske Covid-19 Adam Nieścioruk / Unsplash
The pandemic prompts a new reflection on technology assessment. (Source: Adam Nieścioruk / Unsplash)

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented shocks in our society: Jobs lost in the crisis may not come back, digitalization is accelerating many areas of life, and measures to combat the pandemic may manifest social inequalities. In the light of these uncertainties, there is high pressure on policy makers and society to make decisions. Technology assessment (TA) seems to be predestinated here to provide knowledge for action.

New forms and methods of TA?

“However, the question is what role exactly can we play in this radically new situation?” says Julia Hahn, who is working on this topic at ITAS.

From her point of view, researchers would have to question themselves critically. What can they contribute to actually aligning science and technology with societal needs? How can they anticipate unintended social, environmental, and economic consequences, moderate debates, and provide policy advice? Do we need new forms and methods of TA to remain relevant in this world of rapid change?

Colleagues from ITAS and the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences have been jointly investigating this question for several months. They aim to develop and reflect on concrete and pro-active TA approaches that are based on TA experiences, but correspond to a changing world.

The researchers presented the first results of their joint work in a debate article in TATuP – Journal for Technology Assessment in Theory and Practice. In the near future, they intend to publish more articles and conference contributions and participate in COVID-19 projects to strengthen TA’s contributions in this field. (08.04.2021)

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