Technology Assessment in the EU Institutions
Michael D. Rogers
Independent Consultant, Risk, Ethics and Law, Roelandsheide 55, 3080 Tervuren, Belgium
Technology Assessment (TA) is the study and evaluation of new technologies with the objective of understanding the likely impacts (costs and benefits) of these technologies on society and the environment – with the explicit aim of improving regulatory decision making concerning these technologies. This is a prospective exercise helping to ensure that “better” regulatory decisions are made by decision makers. TA and “TA like” activities are embedded within the main EU institutions. The Commission carries out Regulatory Impact Assessments on every significant regulatory proposal. It also has at its disposal a range of advisory groups which includes the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies and the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies. The European Parliament has its own TA unit – the Science and Technology Options Assessment unit. The institutions are committed to quality, transparency and effectiveness in their use of expert groups and all such assessments are published on the internet. Occasionally full citizens’ consultations are carried out but this is not a formal requirement. Recent changes in the regulatory development process have emphasised the concept of “smarter” regulations. This concept is concerned not just with prospective analyses in advance of new regulations but also with the retrospective evaluation of existing regulations asking the question “Did they meet the need that was the raison d’être for enacting the regulation under consideration.” The distinction highlighted by Churchill  that experts should advise but not decide is intended to ensure that regulators take account of aspects other than the expert view. Nevertheless, it is essential that expert groups have the right to introduce advice thatmight otherwise be overlooked by the regulators, as is the case in a number of expert groups in the EU institutions.
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