EPTA network as guest in Barcelona

The annual meeting of the Council and the conference of the network of European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) bodies took place in the capital of Catalonia on 22-23 October. It was hosted by the Catalan Parliament's Science and Technology Advisory Board (CAPCIT), which held the EPTA presidency in 2012.

Currently, EPTA has 14 full and 4 associate members. Founded in 1990, its aim is to promote the exchange of experience and international cooperation between institutions that provide technology assessment as a scientific advisory service for political deliberation and decision-making processes for parliaments in Europe.

Traditionally, two EPTA events are held in parallel each autumn, the Council, in which the EPTA network discusses and, if necessary, decides on internal issues, and the public conference, which this year was held under the motto "From genes to jeans: challenges on the road to personalised medicine".

At the EPTA Council meeting, two member countries reported drastic structural changes: The Danish Board of Technology (DBT) was transferred to a private-law foundation on 21 June 2012, which will be even more dependent than before on acquired project funds. The type of cooperation between the new DBT Foundation and the Danish Parliament is to be determined in an exploratory phase by 2014. The Flemish Institute Society and Technology (IST) will also receive new sponsorship and change from an institution of the Flemish Parliament to a department of the VITO Institute for Technology Research. The form in which parliamentary technology assessment will be continued here still needs to be clarified. These announcements were received with mixed feelings by the EPTA partners.

The current status and the planned progress of the PACITA project (Parliaments and Civil Society in Technology Assessment), which was initiated by EPTA members and is funded by the EU, was discussed in detail. This project aims at promoting the idea of parliamentary TA in Europe in countries where there is no institutionalised (parliamentary) TA so far, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe. A highlight was the ceremonial opening of the "TA-Portal", a database for TA publications, projects, institutions as well as experts in Europe, which is now searchable online underwww.technology-assessment.info.

At the end of the meeting, the presidency of the EPTA network for 2013 was awarded to Finland to great applause. The "Committee for the Future" of the Finnish Parliament will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year and will thus have the opportunity to combine this festive occasion with the hosting of the next EPTA conference in autumn 2013.

This year's EPTA conference took place in the premises of the Catalan Parliament and was opened by the Speaker of the Parliament and President of CAPCIT, Ms Núria de Gispert. Supported by presentations of scientists, representatives of biomedical companies and last but not least high-ranking representatives of the Catalan government, a "showcase" of Catalan science and technology research in the field of personalised medicine developed. In addition to the central issues of medical need and the challenges for future research and development, the costs that would be incurred by healthcare systems if personalised medicine could or would be widely applied were also addressed. Genetic and socio-cultural risk factors for diseases were highlighted and bioethical and social responsibility issues discussed.


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