Whereas science was long considered as a vehicle of knowledge, and not as the principle of an action, modern times have witnessed the development of sciences and technologies enabling mankind to act upon nature. However, in doing so, fresh problems and new concerns have arisen. From this observation was born the idea of technology assessment which appeared essential to scientific and political bodies. Mechanisms had to be put in place in order to control technical progress while, at the same time, anticipating its consequences.
In the early 1980’s, during a number of debates such as the orientations concerning nuclear, spatial or cable programmes, the French Parliament came to the conclusion that it was unable to assess Government decisions on the major directions of scientific and technological policy. It therefore decided to establish its own structure of assessment: the Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment (Office Parlementaire d’Evaluation des Choix Scientifiques et Technologiques, OPECST).
The OPECST, which was set up by Law n° 83-609 of July 8, 1983, following a unanimous vote of Parliament, aims, within the terms of the Law, »to inform Parliament of the consequences of the choice of scientific and technological options, in particular, so as to enable it to make enlightened decisions«. To do this, it »collects information, launches study programmes and carries out assessments«.
|© EPTA, version 20 Oct 2012; provided by ITA|