TA-SWISS makes great efforts to address fields of technology and their application which are considered by public opinion to be controversial. In particular, TA-SWISS looks into the three subject areas "Life Sciences & Health", "Nanotechnology" and "Information Society". Questions on the impact of a technology on the environment, business, politics, human health etc. are taken up just as are those questions on the ethical implications of technical change.
The TA-SWISS publications and events are directed not only towards decision-makers in politics, science, business and administration but also towards the general public as a whole. Then, basically, unbiased and well-balanced information presented in this way should contribute at an early stage to putting the people and institutions who play a decisive role into the picture on the possible effects to be expected of a new technical development - and on which consequences are to be expected when this technology is not used.
In 1991, the Federal Council and Parliament decided that the Swiss Science Council should create a Swiss model for the assessment of the consequences of technology (TA, Technology Assessment). In 1996, the TA-Programme was able to start work on its second four-year work-period. In government plans for the promotion of education, research and technology for the years 2000 - 2003, the mandate of TA-SWISS and its institutional integration are described as follows:
"The continuation of technology assessment should - with an improved organisation - be assured for the next promotion period. We suggest (...) that TA be institutionalized and become an independent unit answering to the Swiss Science and Technology Council. The TA-Programme will have the job of fulfilling the following tasks: Provide not only the general public and parliament but also the researchers themselves with decision aids for the assessment of the effects of scientific research and technological development (TA studies); Accompany research promoted by the Confederation from the TA point of view; Ensure objectivity in the socio-political discussion on the positive and negative effects of scientific research and technological developments - and also on their omission - even in the pre-political stage;Take over the role of a contact point and clearing-house for related and similar institutions at home or abroad." (Source: Statement on the Promotion of Education, Research and Technology, 2004–2007).
Since the 1st January 2008, TA-SWISS is affilated as a Center of Competence of The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences. Since October 2016 it is a non-profit foundation.
Director: Dr. Elisabeth Ehrensperger