Toolkits for Technology Assessment
Technology Assessment Tools
Technology Assessment refers to a number of techniques that can be used to inform technological decisions. The European Parlament Website on Technology Assessment provides a good entry-point on this
It is typically aiming at:
1. Informing policy makers of the implications of various technological options.
2. Looking at multiple scenarios, benefit/cost analysis, forecasts, environmental impacts, social impacts, etc.
3. And it is usually performed by a government agency, a non-government organization (NGO), a firm specializing in technology assessment, or a company that is deciding on a future policy path.
4. And typically uses a multifaceted approach that includes an analysis of policy options.
The Parliamentary and Civil Society in Technology Assessment (PACITA) is a EU project aiming at developing key practices in TA, exemplified in Public Health Genomics, Ageing Society and Sustainable Consumption.
A DataBase maintained by the EU is providing access to numerous Technology Assessment Reports from various governmental units to support policy options.
Patents, Trolls and other animals....
Originally, Patents were supposed to reward inventions and inventors, and ensure the necessary protection in the childhood of a new product. Fortunately not every business domain is similar to the smartphones with about 250'000 patents hiding in each one! But the original assumptions of protecting innovation in long gone, and now the rules of the game have changed. In the IP field, what you don't know can hurt a lot, and it can hurt even more in case of deliberate infringments. Therefore, the best way to guard against unpleasant surprises starts with a good competitive landscaping and freedom to operate analysis with a thorough study of the patent landscape upfront to identify any potential problem of patents and of who owns them. More on this here (article from REUTER) or at this site-page of Visualisation
The EU has an open Database for Patent Searches
As defined by the IAIA, Technology Impact Assessment is the process of identifying the future consequences of a current or proposed action. The IAIA is a reference point for additional information and tips that can be useful in the development of a (pre-) feasibility study (see section Project Management Box for more).
Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA)
The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) is a procedure aiming at identifying posiive or negative impacts caused by the implementation of a project. The WBCSD has developed a Guideline.
The scope of the ESIA will depend fro the scale of the sensitivity of the social and environmental impacts, and of the size of the project, and can range from a limited ESIA with focus on mitigation of impacts to a full-scale EISA in case of a greenfield project in a sensitive environment.
It is a collaborative and multidisciplinary process, involving at an early stage the various stakeholders (communities, authorities, etc...)
Best Practices on ESIA are also capured by the IAIA (International Association for Impact Assessment).
Innovation: Managing Risk, not avoiding it
No innovation will come without risks, and because technology is more malleable at an early stage, when risks are not (fully) known, and vice-versa, an open approach is far more recommendable than the diktat of experts. This means opening a public debate on the benefits and frawbacks at an early stage. Dogmatism here will only crystallize emotional positions.
The report Innovation: managing risk, not avoiding it elaborates on this, adressing the many facets of this process, with most interesting views on such topics as nanotechnology, GMO, risks perception, communication, etc...
Science and Technology as Solution Provider
In an ideal world, we identify the issues, develop through Research the Science and Technology to provide Solutions, and implement these slutions through Innovation. The problem is that not all Science is irreprochable Science (see the Economist: Trouble at the Lab), with pressure to publish, on one side, and the fact that reproducing research for validation is not a priority. This is now even a topic that is adressed by so-called Metaphysicians, with an Institute at Standford to try to better police all this.
And then, we are not always brilliant at managing the communication of Progress in Science, at debunking science. All this is resulting in mistrust for Science, and is slowing down the implementation of solutions identified by Science and Technology.
Therefore, better mastering the skills at debunking myths, and communicating benefits of Science and Technology Progress is very important if we want to accelerate it's positive impact at addressing societal issues.
Health Technology Assessment
In an era of exploding Health Costs, the question of balancing patients needs and societal sutainability is getting increasingly acute, and this is a clear case where economic performance on their own are not acceptable, and must be re-balanced with additional criteria reflecting societal values.
This leaflet Understanding Health Technology Assessment provides a good entry point to this topic, while this Introduction to Health Technology Assessment will provide more details.
10 Sources of Data
WIKIPEDIA or Google are not the only source of information available. A selection of databases prepared by the Guardian at this link will provide a quick access to data and facts most valuable for research projects for the New Economy. Some relevant ones: