From »Air Taxis« to »Cryptocurrencies« to »Quantum Computers«

Six new topic profiles from Horizon scanning provide condensed information on current scientific and technological trends and socio-economic developments at early stages of development that are highly relevant to technology assessment.

The selection is the result of the fifth wave of Horizon scanning from July 2017 to June 2018 and the individual short profiles range in length from 9 to 14 pages, providing a concise overview of the state of scientific-technical as well as socio-economic development and its relevance for policy and society. They conclude with a description of possible further work and include a detailed list of sources. The topic profiles provide impulses for the TAB topic identification process of the parliamentary groups and committees and can be used as sources of information for everyday parliamentary work.

Horizon scanning consists of a combination of a software-based search process and an expert-based evaluation process. In the software-based process, a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data and information is processed. The process begins with the selection of sources to be considered: These include internet magazines, blogs and the most important leading media of the printed press, popular science sources, but also scientific foresight reports and overview articles (reviews). In successive steps, the information is increasingly narrowed down and condensed. In parallel, the expert-based process for evaluating the prepared information takes place, which is based on the know-how of the experts involved, both in the VDI/VDE-IT team and in TAB as a whole.

The topic profiles of this cycle of research go back to a collection of initially 22 annotated topic headings (teasers), from which the following 6 topics were selected on the basis of their relevance in the social discourse and with regard to potential need for legislative action after comprehensive discussion in the entire TAB team.

For the sake of completeness, we have also decided to publish the ten thematic short profiles from the first and second waves of Horizon scanning. They originate from the 2014/2015 trial phase and do not yet quite correspond in structure and stringency to the status achieved with the short profiles from the third wave from 2016. The ten short profiles are summarised in one publication (only in German) covering the following topics:

  • Cyberattacks on Industry 4.0
  • Retail of the future
  • Performance measurement in the digital world of work
  • Microplastics in oceans
  • Mitochondrial replacement therapy
  • Economization of informational self-determination
  • Reshoring
  • Shrinking Cities
  • Share Economy
  • Payment transactions of the future

Horizon scanning has been carried out by the consortium partner VDI/VDE-IT since 2014. In the first five research cycles, around 120 possible TA-relevant topics were identified in an initial selection by mid-2018. After further analysis, a total of 34 topic short profiles were developed and presented to the TA Rapporteur Group, from which the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment has so far selected three topics for in-depth analyses in TA brief studies: Social bots, Legal tech and Race to a new space era.

29 January 2019

Further information:

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Horizon-Scanning zur strategischen Früherkennung von Themen