One size fits all? On the institutionalization of participatory technology assessment and its interconnection with national ways of policy-making: the cases of Switzerland and Austria

Poiesis and Praxis 9 (1-2):61-80 (2012)
Abstract
Science and technology policy is often confronted with issues that are both complex and controversial and which have to be decided upon in a delicate constellation of policy-makers, experts, stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and the public. One attempt to deal with such a complex problem is via citizen involvement. Participatory technology assessment (pTA) already goes back to several decades, and countries have made various experiences. While in some countries, governments established technology assessment organizations, which also included pTA in their methodological portfolio, others primarily rely on experts to make decisions on science and technology policy. In a third group of countries non-state actors, such as social scientists, experimented with pTA. However, they were often unable to link these experiments to policy-making. This paper deals with the question of why this variation exists and compares the use of pTA in Switzerland and Austria. Despite similarities between the two countries, both had quite different experiences with pTA so far. Whereas several pTAs have been carried out in Switzerland until today, Austrian pTAs have remained infrequent. The aim of this paper is to explain this difference as a result of different ways of policy-making which affect the use and chances of pTA
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