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The Technology Assessment Agenda in Europe: From Institutional to Knowledge Deficit

Sat, September 2, 11:00am to 12:30pm, Sheraton Boston, Floor: 3, Beacon E


When addressing the continuation of Technology Assessment (TA) institutionalization, two assumptions need to be empirically confronted and conceptually revisited. The first consists of a linear expansion of single, national and specialized TA organizations in an increasing number of countries. The second concerns the “opening up” and “broadening out” of the scope and depth of assessments, notably by encouraging the development of participatory TA. Drawing on a European project that thrived on such views, we confront the project’s normative goal of “increasing the capacity and enhancing the institutional foundation for knowledge-based policy-making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, mainly based upon the diversity of practices in Parliamentary Technology Assessment” to empirical data collected in three European fieldworks where such attempts were (unsuccessfully) conducted. Our results interrogate these failures under the light of an evolving deficitary vocabulary. We show that, instead of endorsing the above-mentioned “knowledge-based policy-making” ideal, the respective TA developments are placed under the banner of “evidence-based governance”. In the face of the difficulties to resorb the institutional absences (creating new TA institutions in newcomer countries), the narrative of institutional deficit mutates into one of a knowledge deficit (making TA knowledge available to a wider number of countries). The implications of this evolving deficitary narrative are explored and related to the rise of a more positivistic and uncultured conception of TA knowledge and to a transformation of the regime of epistemic subsidiarity (Jasanoff 2013, 2014), departing from a mode of coexistence towards greater cosmopolitanism.