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Participation methods in technology assessment and technology decision making, a multi-national comparative study of the theory, needs and practice of participatory technology assessment in Europe


The aim of this project is to make an important contribution - both theoretical and practical - to the development and use of participatory technology assessment methods. The goal is to fill the gap between the increased call for participatory technology assessment (by politicians, civil servants, scientists, industrialists, and members of the general public) on the one hand, and the relative lack of theoretical groundwork and the limited practice on the other hand. The relevance of the project lies in its enrichment of the provision of options to decision-makers with regard to science and technology.
The project is set against the background of an ongoing societal debate about how science and technology should be governed so as to respond adequately to the needs of society. This debate reflects a demand for technologies which are both economically sound (regarding competitiveness, employment, growth ...) and socially acceptable (regarding ethics, the environment, and social sustainability and coherence ...). As an answer to this, technology assessment aims to provide comprehensive, balanced and relevant appraisals of technological issues (forecasting, impact assessment, evaluation, option analysis and programme appraisal) to decision-makers. However, it has increasingly become clear that technology assessment cannot fulfil its intended task without working in a wider social context. Hence the call for 'participatory technology assessment' .
Participatory technology assessment can be characterised as
1) being based on an integral understanding of society and technology, 2) including people from outside the traditional circles of decision-makers in the assessment procedures, such as users, citizens and employees, 3) integrating the communication to key target groups into the assessment process.
The objectives of this project are:
1. To develop a framework on the role and function of participatory technology assessment.
2. To characterise and compare current practice in, and experience with participatory technology assessment in the five participant countries. 3. To compare the political and social contexts in the participant countries with respect to suitability for participatory technology assessment. 4. To develop a framework for the use of such assessment in different organisational contexts, with emphasis on the differences between participatory technology assessment at European (transnational), national, regional, corporate, and production level.
5. To make an overview of existing methods and to further develop methods with regard to their use in different contexts.
6. To produce a best practice manual for participatory technology assessment, based on different needs in the context of application.
7. To offer information, training and assistance for potential users of participatory methods.
The project comprises:
A) two initial research reports;
B) two international workshops;
C) five parallel national studies, including national overviews, in-depth interviews, focus groups, national workshops and national reports; D) a methodology manual;
E) a final report;
F) a dissemination seminar;
G) a World Wide Web Homepage.
The involved partners are all charged as practitioners, advisors or academics with the task to respond to the increased call for participatory technology assessment.

Call for proposal

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Participants (4)