Consensus-oriented topic identification in the Bundestag
Proposals to conduct an investigation can be made by all committees and parliamentary groups of the German Bundestag (also jointly).
For each topic proposal, the TAB submits a statement on the question of its scientific feasibility as well as further considerations on the objectives, contents and methods of a possible project.
Under the guidance of the committee chairperson, the rapporteur group for TA discusses the factual, political and social relevance of the proposed topics with the TAB representatives. On this basis, the topics to be investigated are selected by consensus and submitted to the ABFTA for decision.
Despite the cross-sectional nature of many of the technologies and issues to be analysed, looking back on more than 30 years of parliamentary TA, thematic focal points can be identified: Biotechnologies and Health, Digital Society and Economy, Energy and Environment, Infrastructures and Security, and Agriculture and Food.
Inter- or transdisciplinary and collaborative implementation
Following the decision by the ABFTA, the TAB is responsible for the scientific processing and management of the projects. At the beginning, the respective project team conducts intensive research and expert discussions on relevant research questions and results. These also serve to identify and adress conflicting scientific opinions and controversial positions of various interest groups.
The TAB works scientifically in an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary manner. The project team observes and evaluates current scientific discussions as well as topic-related public and political debates throughout the entire duration of the project. For central questions of a TA or monitoring project, the TAB proposes to the ABFTA the assignment of expert opinions to external experts or scientific institutions. The cooperation with the external experts and the evaluation of the expert opinions form a core part of the project work. Workshops and expert discussions are held in the Bundestag to discuss interim results. Frequently, research organisations, companies, civil society groups, public authorities or citizens are also involved in the investigation process. In this way, communication between science, society and the German Bundestag as well as the transfer of knowledge and opinions can take place even before the projects are completed. The results of all activities are compiled by TAB and the project is concluded with a final report.
Approval and publication of the project results
The TA rapporteur group reviews and comments on the final reports from TA projects and short studies and, by consensus, proposes that the ABFTA approve and publish it as a Bundestag printed matter. Frequently, project results are presented in the ABFTA or form the basis of expert discussions in other committees of the German Bundestag. In principle, all results are made freely available.
Content-related and institutional neutrality and independence
Content-related and institutional neutrality and independence are an essential cornerstone of the consulting services. All investigations are carried out in a comprehensible manner. Assumptions and value judgements are disclosed and justified, work results are presented in a reader-friendly and parliamentary-oriented manner - i.e. oriented towards the information needs and responsibilities of the German Bundestag. In performing their tasks for the Bundestag, the head and staff of TAB are not subject to any instructions from their employer or the Bundestag.
"It is important that the roles are clear. Science paves the way for our political decisions. Here in the Bundestag, TAB reports are commissioned and adopted by consensus of all parliamentary groups. Parliamentary discourse on technological innovation can therefore take place on a common factual basis."
Kai Gehring, Vorsitzender des Bundestagsausschusses für Bildung, Forschung und Technikfolgenabschätzung (im Interview mit der TATuP)
TA projects examine complex issues of scientific and technological development using a broad analytical approach. These topics may also have a pronounced cross-sectional character and be of long-term importance for society. The guiding principle of comprehensive sustainable development forms a central orientation for the analysis and assessment of scientific-technological, economic and social future potentials as well as the associated options for research and political action.
Short projects ("TA-Kompakt")
Upon decision of the TA Rapporteurs Group, TAB conducts studies with a short duration and smaller scope of the final reports (TA-Kompakt-Studien) in case of short-term information and consultation needs of the Parliament.
Relevant aspects of change in science, technology and society (e.g. state of research and development, regulation, international comparisons) and their possible impacts are examined in monitoring projects with a thematic focus.
Innovation analyses are concerned with areas where the innovation process is particularly dynamic in scientific-technical and social terms, where a high application potential can be expected, and which can therefore have a particularly strong influence on structural change in the economy, science and society.
Horizon scanning/technology foresight is used to observe scientific and technological trends at an early stage of their development and to place them in the context of societal debates in order to identify innovation signals as early as possible and to assess their relevance. The focus is on topics identified by the TA rapporteur group, reflecting scientific and technological trends and/or specific areas of societal need. In addition, foresight activities include forward-looking analyses of potential vulnerabilities of infrastructure systems (Resilience radar) to enable the development of viable resilience strategies (Resilience check). The results of the Horizon Scanning, the Resilience Radar and the Resilience Check will be made available to the Rapporteur Group in the form of Thematic Brief Profiles, a Foresight Report and a Resilience Dossier.
Discourse analysis and dialogue with societal actors
Promoting public dialogue and facilitating the formation of opinion in society is an important part of parliamentary technology assessment. A systematic exchange of experiences and opinions with societal actors in the German Bundestag is particularly important for the identification and structuring of topics and the public discussion of the results. With the help of participatory discourse analyses, attitudes and debates on future needs and requirements for action are investigated in a representative manner, in order to be able to systematically consider societal needs and positions in TA studies. Selected empirical studies have been published in the TAB-Sensor series.
TA concepts and methods
The results of monitoring and participating in the ongoing national and international debate on TA issues, concepts and methods will be taken into account as appropriate in relevant TA work areas.
Participation and cooperation in the "European Parliamentary Technology Assessment Network" (EPTA) forms the basis for strengthening international parliamentary technology assessment in and beyond Europe.
»If the prerequisites, implications, values and interests of scientific expertise are disclosed, better decisions in politics will be made.«
E. D. Rossmann, TATuP 29 (1), 2020