Bauer, Anja & Kastenhofer, Karen (2019): Policy advice in technology assessment: Shifting roles, principles and boundaries. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 139: 32-41.
Over past decades, the notion of policy advice in technology assessment (TA) has widened, going beyond traditional advice in the form of expert opinions by adding a broad range of brokerage activities. Concomitantly, the roles of scientific policy advisors have diversified.
Based on an empirical study of advisory practices at the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, we ask which advisory roles TA practitioners adopt. Our study shows that practitioners take up multiple roles: the decisionist advisor, the deliberative practitioner, the governance facilitator, the engaged academic, and the agenda-setter. These roles vary, inter alia, in the dominant modes of policy advice and the aspired function in politics and society and correlate with specific project and advisory constellations but also with paradigmatic beliefs of TA practitioners. Our analysis further exemplifies how these roles differ in a) the reference to and interpretation of core principles such as scientificity, neutrality and relevance and b) their strategies of managing the boundary between science and politics. Thus, the article goes beyond the mere statement “TA has politics” by illustrating how the politics of TA manifests in distinct ways in different roles of TA practitioners in policy advice.