What Is Technology Assessment? Essay, Research Paper

Executive Summary

This study aims to familiarise and to supply an apprehension of Technology Assessment both in its yesteryear and present signifier. Its different point of views, attacks, tools and methods, which are all relevant to the technology decision-maker and analyst likewise, are discussed.

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The four different Technology Assessment paradigms as described by Eijnhoven ( 1997 ) along with the positions of lectors in this topic on the inquiry & # 8220 ; What is Technology Assessment? & # 8220 ; , is besides discussed and analysed.

By understanding the roots of technological appraisal and its impacts on mundane life, one can acknowledge and appreciate the importance of its presence in an ever-changing environment. The first portion of this study aims to accomplish this.

The 2nd portion of this study describes the increased demand for applied scientists to integrate Technology Assessment into technology determination devising and its pattern. Different technology subjects will see Technology Assessment in different positions. How they will near a peculiar job through the different environmental, societal, proficient, economic and political factors is portion of the determination devising procedure ( Taylor, 2000 ) .


Brief History

In the post-war epoch, the necessity of taking into history societal costs and benefits every bit good as private costs and benefits became evident. At the clip, jobs associating to calculating the future effects of complex engineerings became more and more obvious ( Freeman 1995 ) . Such an illustration if the issue of atomic power. The restrictions of a strictly economics-based appraisal of societal and environmental jobs had become clear.

It was in these fortunes that techniques of & # 8216 ; Technology Assessment & # 8217 ; began to be used in an effort to get the better of the short-comings and restrictions of cost-benefit analysis.

Therefore, Technology Assessment was adopted by U.S Congress and authoritiess from around the universe and was widely recognised through the demand to do publically available appraisal of the possible hazards, jeopardies, costs and benefits of developing new engineerings. It besides sparked the importance of parliamentary control of appraisal processs and the engagement of diverse subjects.


An illustration of developing new engineerings would be the resource presentation by Wahidul Biswas on & # 8220 ; Socio-Technical Design in Mechanical Engineering & # 8221 ; . In his presentation, Wahidul talks about the effects of new engineerings, that is, societal and environmental facets. New engineerings ( NT & # 8217 ; s ) centres less on the Numberss employed ( a societal facet ) and leads to incomplete burning and biomass ingestion in developing states ( an environmental facet ) .

Technology Assessment as described in Eijnhoven readings by the talk from Bronwyn Holland as a metaphor that & # 8216 ; Technology Assessment illuminates the darkness/opacity of the engineering society interface & # 8217 ; ( Eijnhoven 1997 ) . This is rather true. In a society where nil is really unfastened, Technology Assessment is necessary to convey engineering and society to & # 8216 ; light & # 8217 ; , so to talk, in order to derive a better apprehension.

One of import intent of engineering appraisal, in general, will be continual betterment. By utilizing rating consequences, one will better understand how a technological merchandise or procedure is working and where it is headed. With this greater apprehension, better determinations can be made that will improve/refine the life of the merchandise or procedure in the long tally.

Examples would include:

? radiation

? atomic energy

? fuel emanations

Negative effects of the above, in general, are going positive effects through the continual execution of engineering appraisal.

Another good illustration would be in the country of Health Technologies. The resource presentation by Hung Nguyen on & # 8220 ; Design issues in Electrical Engineering & # 8221 ; negotiations about the demand to plan a non-invasive hypoglycemia proctor capable of supervising hypoglycemia conditions, without pull outing blood or organic structure fluid. Technology appraisal is necessary in planing such a device for diabetic patients. Using new and bettering engineering, more advanced monitoring systems can be designed and implemented to better fulfil society. Engineers are presently working on such a device. As stated in his talk, there is no hypoglycemia proctor in the market at present.

There are many different grounds to measure a peculiar engineering. Many people think of an appraisal as a nerve-racking procedure meant to find continued support or acknowledgment. Although doing determinations on continued support or acknowledgment could be a intent of engineering appraisal, there are many other grounds why one should measure engineering.

Some of these grounds are:

? To supply information to applied scientists and others on facets of the engineering that work good and the possible jobs that arises.

? To catch possible jobs early in the engineering merchandise so they can be corrected before more serious jobs occur farther down the path.

? To steer farther appraisal attempts. For case, an appraisal may convey to light ; issues that need to be examined in greater item or an initial rating of a engineering merchandise execution may be used, in portion, to steer a ulterior appraisal of long-run impact.

? To supply information on what proficient aid may be needed.

? To find what impact the engineering merchandise is holding on users in our society.

So, to reply the inquiry & # 8220 ; Why do we necessitate engineering appraisal? & # 8221 ; in my position, has two major parts:

1. To happen out if the technological merchandise is get downing to bring forth coveted consequences that one aims for. For illustration:

? Has the merchandise improved over bing model/product?

? Is it relatively cost effectual?

? Does it hold a topographic point in society? If so, how utile is it?

? Are all major factors considered? That is, environmental, societal, proficient, economical, cultural and political factors?

2. To obtain information on implementing the merchandise.


What is Technology Assessment?

There is no 1 straight reply or definition to this inquiry. Technology appraisal has taken on many signifiers and attacks and is viewed otherwise by each person. It is nevertheless, can be agreed that engineering appraisal has established itself as a new signifier of interdisciplinary engineering research where applied scientists from all subjects and other parties come together to measure a peculiar engineering.

Two definitions, which I believe, are good attacks to understanding Technology Assessment are:

? Technology appraisal is & # 8220 ; a category of policy surveies which consistently examine the effects on society that may happen when a engineering is introduced, extended or modified. It emphasizes those effects that are unintended, indirect or delayed & # 8221 ; ( Coates 1980 )

? & # 8220 ; Technology appraisal is an effort to set up an early warning system to observe, control, and direct technological alterations and developments so as to maximize the public good while understating the public hazards & # 8221 ; ( Cetron 1972 )

There are four chief types of TA attacks, which can be distinguished ( Ende et al 1997 ) :

1. Awareness Tantalum: forecasting technological developments and their impacts to warn for unintended or unwanted effects.

2. Strategic Tantalum: back uping specific histrions or groups of histrions in explicating their policy or scheme with regard to a specific technological development.

3. Constructive Tantalum: broadening the determination procedure about technological development, to determine the class of technological development in socially desirable waies.

4. Backcasting: developing scenarios of desirable hereafters and get downing invention procedures based on these scenarios.

Technology appraisal analyses are surveies which:

? comprehensively and consistently analyse and measure the requirements for and the positive and negative impact of introducing and ( widely ) using engineerings ;

? place countries of societal struggle created by engineering applications and

? Point out and reexamine optimum classs of action ( & # 8221 ; options & # 8221 ; ) for bettering the engineerings considered and their footings of application.

The Starting points for engineering appraisal are either from a concrete undertaking, a specific engineering or a sensed job. There are three Technology Assessment surveies normally undertaken:

1. & # 8220 ; Project-induced & # 8221 ; TA-studies: Probe of engineering applications that are archetypal.

2. & # 8220 ; Technology-induced & # 8221 ; TA-studies: Address the issue of utilizing a engineering and its effects for industry, the environment and society within the model of a wide scope of known or possible applications.

3. & # 8220 ; Problem-induced & # 8221 ; TA-studies: These surveies attempt to indicate out possible alternate ( proficient ) solutions for foreseeable jobs, such as in the countries of conveyance, energy supply, environmental issues etc. ) and to analyze their impacts.

The four paradigms as defined by Eijnhoven

J.C.M Van Eijnhoven, a professor of engineering appraisal had devised through extended research, the four paradigms of engineering appraisal: the classical paradigm ; the Office of Technology Assessment ( OTA ) paradigm ; public engineering appraisal paradigm ; and constructive engineering ( CTA ) paradigm.

Classical Paradigm

The classical paradigm emphasized early warning and the impersonal character of the information to be provided.

OTA Paradigm

OTA appraisals were non so directed at early warning, but at the development of policy shapers. The careful reconciliation of engagement of the U.S Congress, stakeholders and faculty members provided a mechanism taking to important studies.

Public TA Paradigm

Dressed ores on actively seeking engagement of a broad populace. The accent here is much less on the production of important studies than on societal procedures that may assist determine engineering in society. In states other than the United States, much more accent is placed upon a deficiency of interaction among experts, representatives and the populace with regard to scientific discipline and engineering issues ( Eijnhoven 1997 ) . Public TA paradigm aims to bridge the spread between the public and private sectors while at the same clip, spread outing the relationship between people and engineering.

Active engagement of the populace in doing them understand the range and deductions of a peculiar engineering is what authoritiess, the parliament and private sectors hope to accomplish.

An illustration of this would be to keep conferences where a panel of people is educated about a certain technological development and whereby they can confer with with experts and the audience about peculiar issues and concerns.

Their decisions are so written into a papers, which is so delivered to parliament as a footing for farther policy development ( Eijnhoven 1997 ) .

CTA Paradigm

The Dutch Science Dynamics plan was the start of a development that finally led to constructive engineering appraisal. The Science Dynamics plan was created by the Minister of Science Policy ( curate 1973-1981 ) of the Netherlands to originate a research plan directed at happening ways in which research can be oriented toward social ends.

Compared to the & # 8220 ; early warning & # 8221 ; attack of the classical paradigm, constructive engineering appraisal was idealised as an active, positive signifier of determining technological development.

The organic structure of literature about constructive engineering appraisal leads one to believe how technological development can most efficaciously be influenced. This is done chiefly in industry. For this ground, constructive engineering appraisal can sometimes be viewed as a signifier of enlightened direction, of broadening the factors taken into history in the usual design processes in industry.

Technology Assessment Tools and Methods

There are legion engineering appraisal tools and methods used by the relevant party ( Internet Explorers ) , professions and authoritiess of today, both modern and traditional. New appraisal tools and methods are being discovered or developed at a rapid gait to accommodate to the demands of an ever-changing environment.

The application of different TA tools and methods demands to be evaluated more consistently to find in which situations the application of the tools and methods has been successful and in which non.

Furthermore, a combination of different TA tools and methods may be required for, say, a peculiar project/product.

Examples of the tools and methods used to place or characterize Technology Assessment can be summarised in the table 1:

Tools and Methods

Layout of StudiesLayout of interventionsTools for AnalysisIntervention Tools

Technological ForecastingIntervention in Innovation NetworksTrend ExtrapolationConsumer Conference

Impact AssessmentConnecting Separated NetworksStructured InteractionStructured Interaction

( Delphi )

Scenario AnalysisDemand ArticulationChecklists

Market ResearchConsumer TASocio-technical Maps

Panel ConsensusParticipatory TA

Visionary ForecastsCitizens & # 8217 ; Enterprises

Risk AssessmentStrategic Niche Management

Table 1: Tools and Methods

Four tools and methods, which will be discussed in this study, are Environmental Impact Assessment ( EIA ) , Barometer of Sustainability, Structured Interaction ( Delphi ) and Technological Forecasting.

Environmental Impact Assessment ( EIA )

Environmental impact appraisal aims to enter and measure the impact of physical undertakings ( e.g. edifice roads, power Stationss, industrial workss etc ) . An environmental impact appraisal is non merely a survey of the environmental impact of a undertaking but is a lawfully regulated procedure, which must be carried out in conformity with certain regulations and ordinances before blessing is granted.

Environmental impact appraisals must besides be carried out for environmentally relevant programs and plans ( town planning, land-use plans, conveyance planning, research and engineering plans etc. ) .

From the methodological facet, EIA has a great trade in common with TA ; in many states, economic and societal effects are besides considered within the model of environmental impact appraisals, i.e. the impacts they record are likewise comprehensive to those of TA-studies.

An convergence between engineering appraisal and environmental impact appraisal is peculiarly apparent in the instance of research and engineering plans, or undertakings concerned with edifice technological invention ( e.g. coal liquefaction workss ) . Such environmental impact appraisals are normally accepted into the TA-field, while environmental impact appraisals of Pr

ojects with an already established engineering ( e.g. building of a coal power station ) or other conventional undertakings are non included ( Halstead 2000 ) .

Barometer of Sustainability

A powerful tool for analyzing and understanding homo and ecological well being at the same clip. Developed by the World Conservation Union and supported by a grant from the International Development Research Centre ( IDRC ) for a undertaking titled & # 8220 ; Measuring Progress towards Sustainability & # 8221 ; .

It enables users to organize and unite indexs, and to pull wide decisions from frequently confounding and contradictory signals about people, the ecosystem, and the effects of interactions between the two. It presents those decisions visually, supplying an immediate image of wellbeing.

The Barometer has six cardinal characteristics:

1 ) A public presentation graduated table, uniting indexs to which the user can attach a public presentation value & # 8212 ; desirable, acceptable, or unacceptable, for illustration & # 8212 ; with regard to human or ecosystem well-being

2 ) The graduated table has two axes: one for human wellbeing, the other for ecosystem well-being. This ensures that an betterment in one does non dissemble a diminution in the other. Decisions about wellbeing are expressed as points on their appropriate axes. The intersection of these points provides a reading of overall wellbeing and advancement toward sustainability

3 ) A lower mark on one axis overrides a higher mark on the other. In other words, overall wellbeing is based on which subsystem & # 8212 ; people or the ecosystem & # 8212 ; is in worse status

4 ) The Barometer & # 8217 ; s 0-100 graduated table is divided into five sectors of 20 points each, the interval between which may change. Users control the graduated table by specifying one or more sectors. For illustration, for unemployment amongst applied scientists, 0-4 % may be defined as good, 5-9 % as O.K. , 10-19 % as medium, 20-49 % as hapless, and 50-100 % as bad

5 ) Specifying the sectors of the graduated table obliges users to province explicitly their premises about the significance of each index for human or ecosystem well-being, and the degree of accomplishment that would be ideal, desirable, acceptable, unacceptable, or black

6 ) Converting index consequences to the barometer graduated table involves simple computations, doing it easy to utilize for a broad scope of people and applications

Structured Interaction ( Delphi )

A engineering appraisal attack developed for prediction intents. This procedure requires that experts consider the issues under probe and do anticipations about future developments. Delphi is a systematic, synergistic method of calculating based on independent inputs sing future events.

The method includes interviewing of, and anonymously interchanging replies between experts. In this manner, an effort is made to do an estimation of future developments without any intervention of the societal dealingss that exist between these experts ( Ende et al 1997 ) . However, there is a restriction, in questioning experts, will by and large bring forth colored consequences. A flow chart of the Delphi procedure is shown below.

This namelessness besides provides the comfort of confidentiality, leting experts on the panel to freely show their sentiments. By making so, it becomes extremely utile in documenting a broad spread of sentiment so that uncertainness sing events or the subject at manus can be reflected. Therefore, different positions from a scope of subjects are critical to the result.

All participants are encouraged to notice on their ain prognosiss and on the combined panel consequences. This process reduces the effects of personal dockets or prejudices and assists the panellists in staying focused on the inquiries, issues and remarks at manus.

Technological Prediction

Technology prediction is a quite common engineering appraisal technique used in about any application. However, it is chiefly used to develop images of the hereafter development of engineering. In peculiar, the anticipations of future engineerings and how it will change as its technological class of action varies is seen as & # 8220 ; likely hereafters & # 8221 ; . The realization of these hereafters is dependent on actions of the different parties involved.

There are huge restrictions with the application of this technique, in peculiar where technological prognosiss are seen as being extremely prognostic. One of the cardinal defect is that of foretelling engineering itself. How does one predict that a peculiar engineering will, if of all time, be really successful, as one would trust it to be? The reply to this inquiry is of a bad nature.

Another restriction would be the trouble in calculating social developments. Particularly in an unsure epoch such as this one, society develops and alterations invariably. Adapting to alter would be rather hard and calculating would likely be needed to be done on a regular footing.

Besides, the unpredictable types of usage of new engineerings are another restriction. One can non be certain whether a certain engineering forecasted will entirely be used for that intent ( s ) merely.



In today & # 8217 ; s society, Technology Assessment plays a important function in the technology determination devising procedure. It is seen more and more as a formality to include Technology Assessment surveies when covering with technology determinations. Increased force per unit area from the societal, environmental, cultural, political, economical and proficient factors have shaped the manner applied scientists think.

The thought of interdisciplinary research is non an uncommon 1. Until different subjects are brought into contact with one another, the consequences obtained within a individual subject are likely to be extremely deceptive. Interdisciplinary research is apparent in about all undertakings undertaken by applied scientists and other professions.

Technology Assessment and Engineering Disciplines

The primary map of applied scientists is to utilize their proficient cognition and preparation to make merchandises and procedures that are of value to the administration ( Harris et al 1995 ) . Engineers being professionals must continue the criterions their profession has decided should steer the usage of their proficient cognition. They have duties to keep which include run intoing the criterions normally associated with good design and accepted technology pattern. The standards embedded in these criterions include such considerations as efficiency and economic system of design, the grade of impregnability to improper fabrication and operation, and the extent to which state-of-the-art engineering is used. Technology Assessment is one major tool applied scientists use in their attack to accomplish this.

Technology Assessment ( TA ) , I believe should be incorporated right across the technology scope of subjects. It should be implemented at the beginning and coating of a undertaking or merchandise, to guarantee the above-named relevant factors are taken into consideration, and that the applied scientists & # 8217 ; determination, in the terminal, is the right 1. Different TA tools and methods will be implemented by different technology subjects.

TA surveies should besides be done to guarantee the undertaking viability and the hazards as an result from merchandises, constructions, substances created by applied scientists is minimised or avoided.

Engineering needfully involves hazards. Even if applied scientists did non introduce but instead designed things in the same manner twelvemonth after twelvemonth, the opportunity of bring forthing injury would be. New jeopardies could be found in merchandises, procedures and chemicals one time thought to be safe ( Harris et al 1995 ) .

The component of hazard is greatly increased because applied scientists are invariably involved in invention.


? Civil applied scientists and Builders building a span or edifice with new stuffs or with a new design

? Mechanical applied scientists planing new machines

? Chemical applied scientists synthesising new chemical compounds

This is normally ever done without the full cognition of their long-run effects on worlds or the environment. Therefore, TA becomes important in cut downing these effects. By implementing TA-studies, cognition of the dangers associated with new engineering can be avoided or minimised.

Integrating factors into the technology determination devising procedure

As mentioned in the overview, technology subjects have different societal, proficient, economic and political forces that shape their determination devising procedure. This is rather true. Different technology subjects will hold different positions on a peculiar topic or undertaking. Each applied scientist would hold been taught to believe otherwise and act/respond consequently and so the technology phrase & # 8220 ; there is more than one manner to plan something & # 8221 ; is rather true.


Typical illustrations of the different subjects that incorporate the assorted factors into their determination devising procedure is in the medical engineerings and IT industry.

While most appraisals of medical engineerings focus narrowly on their cost effectivity, a more of import inquiry for engineering appraisal involves the determination doing procedure that accompanies it. In add-on one knows small information about the different functions played by different histrions in the development and execution of medical engineering such as infirmaries, every bit good as fiscal establishments ( illustration, wellness attention insurance companies ) . ( Weijers 1995 ) .

Decision doing on such medical engineerings such as insulin merger pumps used for the intervention of diabetics was rather interesting as it was a new engineering whose optimum usage form was ( and remains ) terra incognita. Here, different factors such as societal, economical, proficient, wellness factors and attacks are incorporated into the determination devising procedure.

Decision-making is frequently limited to the efficiency of the engineering as such amongst other factors, and is based on the engineering & # 8217 ; s & # 8220 ; province of the art & # 8221 ; at that minute. Rarely do decision-makers take into history the possibility that a engineering might alter, through research and development, or that new administrations or involved parties might alter its application.

Another illustration of determination devising processes integrating the assorted factors is in the Information Technology industry. Social, economical, proficient and political factors are the of import 1s to see when assessing, bring forthing and implementing new engineerings.

Whereas IT has been a steadily turning component of society for the last 50 old ages, one is now faced with a state of affairs where IT in many respects is puting the criterion for communicating between administrations. Traditional agencies are no longer a cost-efficient option and will hence be replaced. With persons, IT is get downing to go a portion of mundane life. Examples include:

? Electronic transportation of money alternatively of hard currency payments

? Mobile phones

? Video conferencing

? The Internet

All these are popular illustrations, which indicate alterations in mundane life.

Another illustration is in communicating with governments, where personal information is sometimes merely available on computing machine.

A turning concern whilst covering with IT is IT-security. The three chief countries are:

? Continuity & # 8211 ; the handiness of information to the administration or single

? Integrity & # 8211 ; degree of trust one can set on the information processed, transmitted or stored.

? Privacy & # 8211 ; who is allowed to see what information

Each technology subject will integrate different factors in respects to their determination devising procedure. For illustration, a Civil Engineer on a particular undertaking, say, constructing a route, would necessitate to see all, if non most of the factors listed antecedently. Whilst an Environmental Engineer would likely concentrate on the environmental, cultural, and societal factors associated with constructing a route. But both would join forces with one another to accomplish an optimum end or stop merchandise. This leads to the issue of interdisciplinary research.

Interdisciplinary Research

As mentioned earlier, Technology Assessment has established itself as a new signifier of interdisciplinary engineering research where applied scientists from all subjects and other parties & # 8217 ; come together to measure a peculiar engineering. Technology and society is rather clearly approached from different waies by different subjects non merely applied scientists. These include economic experts, engineers, scientists & # 8217 ; etc.

Different technology subjects with their different premises and methods are brought into contact with one another as apparent with any undertaking undertaken or development of new engineering. Decisions are made, during the research phase of new engineerings and of new equipment, which will later coerce all attempts to plan the occupations in connexion with them. This research stage should therefore pull other subjects other than technology such as societal scientists. Indeed, there are similarities and differences existent in the manner socio-technical information is sought in the assorted subjects.

The basic theoretical account drawn on the old page is typical of the technology determination doing procedure that applied scientists use to be after, implement and design a peculiar undertaking. This theoretical account can besides be used in other subjects.


From this study one can reason by stating that Technology Assessment is critical in all facets of society and non merely in technology entirely. Through the different attacks, point of views, tools and methods of engineering appraisal we can derive a better apprehension of the procedures involved and to bring forth, polish and implement new and bing engineerings to better carry through our day-to-day lives.

Through the apprehension of paradigms classical, OTA, public and Constructive ( as described by Eijnhoven ) , we can seek and associate it to real-life state of affairss and technology applications.

The demand for Technology Assessment to be incorporated at the design stage of a undertaking is important and cardinal in the manner Engineering design is undertaken by the assorted Engineering subjects.

The issue of Interdisciplinary research and coaction is achieved through the usage of Technology Assessment tools and techniques.

Besides, the different societal, proficient, economic and political factors are all factors which influence the manner determination devising procedures are made through different technology subjects.

Technology Assessment has taken on many signifiers during this epoch and is varied through each single and/or administration. It has an tremendous impact on my hereafter as a practising applied scientist.


Taylor, Elizabeth. 2000 & # 8220 ; 48270 Technology Assessment Study Guide Notes s2000 & # 8243 ; 1,

Freeman, Christopher, 1995. & # 8220 ; Preface to Managing Technology in Society & # 8221 ; .

Pull offing Technology and Society, 1995, p. nine. Pinter Publishers

Eijnhoven, Josee Van 1997 & # 8220 ; Technology Assessment: Merchandise or Process? & # 8221 ;

Technological Forecasting and Social Change, vol 54

Biswas, Wahidul 2000 & # 8220 ; Socio-Technical Design in Mechanical Engineering & # 8221 ;

Resource Presentation 2000

Holland, Bro


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