Knowledge, advice, decision making – these are the core dimensions along which technology assessment (TA) has been established and institutionalized. However, all three dimensions increasingly reveal societal transformation processes that change their character, relevance and interaction. The research area “Knowledge society and knowledge policy” sees the consequences of these changes as the overarching reference problem. Changes in the core dimensions are, therefore, made the subject of research.
Knowledge – and thus also non-knowledge – are key determinants of social action: What knowledge is taken into account when developing and approving new technologies? What selection processes influence the decision for or against technological developments in politics or the economy? Expectations of science to offer clear and unambiguous solutions to relevant societal issues can often not be met due to complex social contexts: How, for example, can a nuclear waste repository be established if even experts do not agree on the appropriate solutions? What influence does the science system have, e.g., on the Internet, given the increasing competition between worldviews? What role does nursing staff’s experience play in the design and use of care robots? The construction of the different types of knowledge, the production of evidence, and their relevance for advice and decision making are therefore systematically examined.
Advice to policy makers and the public is particularly in demand when technically induced social problems occur. The research area examines the social consequences of new technologies – such as big data, smart grids, care robots, or nanotechnology – as well as unresolved issues of established technologies, such as in the field of radioactive waste disposal. The form of policy-informing knowledge is changing and requires a target group-specific definition. For this reason, among others, advice processes are subject to considerable change. The question therefore is: How do the forms of policy advice change in times of politically desired and knowledge-based transformation processes, such as the energy transition or the impact of the vision of Industry 4.0? What is the significance of technological visions of the future in advice processes? How does the pluralization of addressees change the advice, addressed not only to parliaments but also to stakeholders and citizens? The advisory activities cover topics where ITAS teams have already produced results from independent research. Phenomena of the advising practice are disclosed and advising methods are reflected.
Technology policy decision making follows more or less recognized, institutionalized procedures. However, decision-making processes are subject to complex changes: organizations such as the WTO create global standards, citizens demand more direct participation, and the economy increasingly delegates decisions to standardized digital processes and computers. Here, TA especially observes the underlying decision-making assumptions. The research area, on the one hand, assesses the potential consequences of possible decisions, e.g., with regard to the decentralization of the energy supply or the algorithmic processing of complex data. On the other hand, it focuses on the range of decision-making options and shows alternative ways of making decisions.