Comparative Table of Parliamentary TA Institutions

Work Procedures and Methods


The Parliament of Catalonia has developed an awareness of the fact that in the age we live in, parliaments are not familiar with what is the most suitable way to provide support to scientific and technical innovations, and oftentimes they do not realise all the implications posed by the current scientific and technical revolution. In this sense, CAPCIT has the following goals:

The principle for all actions undertaken by CAPCIT is founded on fostering diversity in opinion and scientific and technical alternatives in order to ensure the consultancy provided is neutral, objective and independent.


DBT conducts technology assessments with a view to generating debate and clarification among the target groups – these being politicians, industry, NGOs, experts, citizens, etc. – depending on the issue at stake. This also includes groups in society which do not necessarily already see the need of debating technology.

To assess the functionality of actual technologies is not the task of DBT. Instead the focus must be on opportunities for and impacts on people, the environment and social conditions. The objective is to clarify dilemmas and conflicts. This does not always mean that technology assessments have to conclude in recommendations for a solution; technology assessments may provide knowledge, identify joint views, conflicts and options as a step towards finding a solution.

DBT draws on the best available expertise – in the widest sense – and often across professions and sectors. Expertise may be found among the traditional academia, but it may also be found among stakeholders, users, consumers, and lay people. This wide concept of expertise ensures that many types of knowledge and different values and interests are represented in the assessments.


DBT considers it an essential task to contribute to the development of methods for assessing technology, especially in connection with methods involving the citizens, users and employees - those affected by the technology in question. DBT applies different methods for assessing technology:


The 2011 work plan of DBT includes the following issues on which projects are initiated:

Besides, DBT is working on externally financed projects, for example:


STOA's mission is fulfilled with generally recognized success through: The STOA Secretariat executes the decisions of the Panel with the assistance of external contractors who are selected based on the expertise needed by STOA and the financial regulation of the EU institutions.

STOA's external contractors can be research institutes, universities, laboratories, consultancies or individual researchers contracted to help prepare specific projects. In 2014 STOA signed new framework contracts with expert consortia covering the delivery of technological and scientific expertise in a broad range of areas, valid until 2018.

Once the projects are completed, but also when important interim results are obtained or when current events render some subjects politically interesting, STOA approaches the relevant committees and organises presentations by the experts. Similar presentations are also regularly organised in the context of the STOA Panel meetings.


It is important that the tasks with which the Committee has been entrusted have from the very beginning included methods of futures research. This will continue to be the foundation of high-quality futures work. In particular, at the beginning of each parliamentary term the new Committee must be given training to familiarize it with good work methods.

Deliberation of so-called own matters in a plenary session, as a topical debate on the basis of reports, is problematic, but so far the only way. A right to draft a report concerning own matters, along the lines of the model that applies to the Audit Committee, would strengthen deliberation as a normal plenary session matter. Another method that has been proposed is one in which the Committee would present joint long-term parliamentary initiatives, but this would blur the significance of both the Committee and the initiative institution.

The Prime Minister as the corresponding minister is the most appropriate choice. In accordance with the idea on which the Committee is founded, the broad scope of its tasks and a high level of Government-Parliament dialogue, the cabinet member with foremost responsibility must ultimately be the Prime Minister. Moreover the Prime Minister also chairs the Research and Innovation Council which facilitates again a broad dialogue.

Once during its term of office, the Government issues a report on long-term future prospects and the Government’s targets. In accordance with the political system, it is the Prime Minister who chooses the theme. In order to promote regional debate, regional Future Forums are organised jointly by the Prime Minister’s Office and Parliament on the subject matters of the report.

It would now appear to be the time for broad handling that covers a wide spectrum of sectors, for horizontal processing rather than special themes the Committee should once in a parliamentary term conduct a general exploration of the state of Finland and the related scenarios and/or futures map.

The Committee’s intention during this parliamentary term is to create a pool of professor-level experts both from the Finland Futures Research Centre (which is an auxiliary unit of the Turku University) and other universities too. This university network is destined to provide assistance in conducting studies, and also to strengthen ties to the world of science

An increasing number of Regional Meetings have been arranged both with the Committee on its own and together with the corresponding ministry, i.e. the Prime Minister’s Office. It participated successfully for four weeks in an open popular discourse on an education theme on the Internet. Systematic hearings to elicit the views of citizens would be important, but require a lot of resources. The Committee will support and participate if the Parliament makes a policy decision to hear the views of citizens on, for example, important major legislative projects. Modern media is used as much as possible. This development is intended to be continued. It will be possible to arrange new kinds of citizen involvement.

The Committee for the Future is not one of the most desired committees after a general election, but it has proved itself to be a good vantage point from which to follow changes in the world. A considerable proportion of ministers have been members of the Committee. In the period 2003–2007 the Committee’s chair, Representative Katainen, was elected as the leader of the biggest opposition party, the National Coalition, and became Minister of Finance after the election. The Committee’s report "A Caring, Encouraging and Creative Finland", which appraised the information society, was incorporated, almost complete with name, into the Programme for Government. After the spring 2011 general election, Mr Katainen took the prime ministership. There are many other ex-Future-MPs in the new Government, even two other party leaders: Minister of Finance and chair of Social Democratic Party, Mrs Urpilainen, being one of the most important ones and Minister of Interior, chair of Christian Party, Mrs Päivi Räsänen.


IST has conducted research in a broad area of topics and issues related to a variety of technologies, from biotechnologies, through mobility technologies, energy technologies, information and communication technologies as well as nanotechnologies, and fertility technologies. The institute has applied a broad range of analytical and participatory methods and approaches: explorative survey studies, parliamentary hearings, theatre plays, essays, interviews with experts and stakeholders, retrospective trend analyses, consensus conferences, public forums, citizen conventions, technology festivals, didactical packages for scholars, among others.



Any matter referred to the OPECST leads to the appointment of one or more rapporteurs, exclusively selected amongst the members of the OPECST. Several study programmes have brought together an MP and a Senator.


Once appointed, the rapporteur first makes a feasibility study. This study aims at providing a snapshot of knowledge on the topic, determining possible research avenues, appreciating the possibilities of obtaining relevant results in the required time period and, last, determining the necessary means to start a study programme. The rapporteur then submits the conclusions of his feasibility study together with methodological remarks to the members of the OPECST. At that stage, he suggests either that the study should be closed, (this happens very rarely), or he proposes to modify the extent of the study (a study first dealing with biofuels was thus extended to prospects for development of non food agricultural products), or, much more frequently a study programme is set up that leads to the drawing?up of a report.


The rapporteur then goes ahead with hearings enabling him to gather, without exclusion, all opinions from concerned persons and organisations. He may also travel in France or abroad in order to inspect installations and firms connected with his work. Throughout his study, the rapporteur is assisted by a parliamentary civil servant and, if need be, by a study group made up of specialists from outside Parliament. He may also hire French or foreign free?lance experts and consultants for further investigation into specific items. He may likewise gather the opinions of trade unions, professional bodies, and organisations for the protection of the environment or consumer defence. However, the OPECST reports are not restricted to setting out the experts´ points of view. Their conclusions are the work of Parliamentarians and may go beyond merely informing, by including suggestions and recommendations. If the rapporteur deems it necessary, public hearings, open to the press, are organised to gather and confront the opinions of leading figures and organisations wishing to express themselves on the subject in discussion. The minutes of these hearings may then be annexed to the report.


The OPECST rapporteur have identical powers to financial rapporteurs: they may therefore carry out direct investigations on any State Agency and have access to any available document, with the exception of those dealing with military matters or State security. In addition, in the event of difficulties encountered in exercising their mission, the OPECST rapporteurs may request to be given the prerogatives granted to parliamentary committees of inquiry.


At the end of their work, the rapporteurs submit their draft report and their conclusions to the members of the OPECST. These conclusions are presented in such a way that they may be used directly for legislative work or budgetary discussion. Members of the OPECST must decide whether they publish these reports and all or part of the minutes of the hearings and the contributions by the experts. In this respect, the OPECST´s decisions are mostly unanimous and the consensus of its decisions is one of the OPECST´s main features.

The documents from the OPECST, which make up a special collection within all the parliamentary reports, are on sale at the "Boutique de l´Assemblée Nationale", at the "Espace Librairie du Sénat" and at the Journal officiel, and are available on each Assembly website. Since its creation, the OPECST has published more than 90 reports.


After decision by the Committee, TAB is responsible for scientific and organisational implementation of the TA studies. The project team begins with intensive research and consultations with experts on relevant research issues and findings. These also help in exploring opposing scientific opinions and controversial positions by various interest groups. For central issues defined for a study, TAB makes recommendations to the Committee on expertise to be commissioned from external experts or scientific institutions. Cooperation with such external experts and their reports is a central element of project work.

Over the entire term of the project, the team monitors and analyses the ongoing scientific debates and related public and political discussions. Particularly when interim findings are at hand, workshops and expert meetings are organised to bring together scientific experts and Members of Parliament. Representatives of societal groups are frequently included. This also aims to promote communication between science, society and German Bundestag and the transfer of knowledge and opinions, even before completion of a project. The results of all activities are summarised by TAB, and the project is concluded with a final report.


TA projects and monitoring activities are central working areas for TAB. These areas have proved ideal, particularly as a means of channelling the numerous requests for topics received from the expert committees and parliamentary political parties into analytical processes suitable for the purposes of German Bundestag.


These analytical approaches - for which the cooperation partner Fraunhofer-Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) holds lead responsibility - are used to open up specific additional prospects:


The Committee, after the topics are decided, organises meetings once or twice every month where the MPs are informed by invited experts on various themes.

The committee cooperates with:




The Rathenau Instituut assists in the process of political opinion forming through direct contact with both Houses of the Dutch parliament and the European Parliament. Its staff is called as expert witnesses at formal hearings and organise or take part in round table discussions and expert meetings. The Rathenau Instituut also strives to ensure that all reports and other products are relevant and accessible to decision-makers at all levels.

Supporting policy making and public debate

Researchers of the Rathenau Instituut often meet with policymakers to bring findings to their attention and to make sure that the developments are given a place on the political agenda. The Institute also promotes general discussion of the research topics, making an active contribution to the public debate. Rathenau Instituut experts are regular contributors to the national media and the Institute takes every opportunity to publicize its work at festivals, conferences and debates. The Rathenau Instituut publishes a newsletter and makes full use of digital technology, including social media, in engaging NGOs, stakeholder groups and the general public.


Good methodology is essential to the quality of the work delivered by the Rathenau Instituut. All its activities are based on highly diverse analytical and communicative methods, such as focus groups, citizen panels, statistics, database analysis, questionnaires, interviews, visualisations, debates and presentations. For each project the methods that lend themselves best to realising objectives are carefully considered. If required, new methods are developed which are hopefully suitable for several projects.

To bring science dynamics and international comparisons into focus, the Rathenau Instituut has developed expertise in the domain of scientometrics. It works on social network analysis methods to map science and technology networks, and conducts agent-based modelling pilots whose purpose is to stimulate complicated policy problems, making use of methods and techniques also used for "horizon scanning" and "foresight" among other things. In addition, it reflects on information visualisation, for instance in graphics, diagrams, networks and photos.


The Norwegian Board of Technology employs a range of different methods in our projects, where these five are considered primary methods: expert groups, consensus conferences, scenario workshops, focus groups and open hearings. These methods are flexible and can be adapted for each individual project.


The NBT expert groups are always broadly constituted. The participants originate from different institutions and areas of learning, and usually vary in their professional association with the given topic. An expert group is used to illuminate a current topic, give advice or provide policy options. The participants are chosen based on their academic expertise or practical experience in the chosen field.

An expert group will usually meet 6-8 times during a project, with 4-12 months typically elapsing between the first and last meetings. A project manager from the NBT will lead the process and do most of the writing and organizing. The Board members will be briefed on the work, but the making of conclusions and recommendation in a specific project is normally delegated to the expert group.


A consensus conference is an exercise in practical democracy, and involves those who seldom have a forum where they can be heard. The participants take part by virtue of being socially aware citizens. They should not be experts on the topic under discussion, nor should they have prominent positions in organized interest groups that are affected by the given topic.

Citizens can contribute knowledge and perspectives that experts normally do not bring to the table. We are all non-experts in most areas of life, but we also have experiences and values that we can use to assess new information. The NBT has also used and contributed to the development of other participatory methods such as different citizen panels and citizen summits.


Discussion and the exchange of experiences are the core elements of a scenario workshop. The discussions circle around a set of scenarios that are portraits of alternative futures in a given topic. The scenarios may be presented as a movie, lecture, document or some other form. The purpose of the scenarios is to make the participants conscious of future choices involving technology, and encourage them to make critical assessments. Developing new visions and proposals for action may also be a part of the process.


A focus group is a type of structured group interview. The goal is that conversations conducted in a group of 7 to 10 individuals will bring to light more information than by interviewing participants individually. The participants in a focus group have special knowledge about or experience with a given topic.

The focus group´s topic is limited in scope and determined by the interviewer. It is nonetheless important that the discussions are open enough for the participants to exchange experiences and comment upon each other´s viewpoints. Herein lays a part of this method´s strength: the conversations and interaction within the group can bring to light more information than by interviewing the group members one by one.


During a hearing, individuals or institutions can give input to a work in progress. Hearings may either transpire in public with prepared papers dealing with key questions or recommendations, or in round-table hearings with plenary discussions. The participants are usually either experts in their respective fields, decisions-makers or representatives of affected interest groups who we believe have special knowledge about the topic.

Prior to a hearing, the Board of Technology has usually done some preparatory work on the topic. As a rule, an expert group has elaborated a set of key questions or preliminary recommendations, which the participants at the hearing should comment upon.


Generally, the TA projects start at the beginning of the year and the report is finalised and released at the end of the year in connection with the budget debate. A seminar is often held initially with different experts in order to involve MPs and to present the state of the art in the field. The presentations and discussions are summarised and communicated to the MPs via the intranet of the Parliament.

External experts are, whenever necessary, engaged to write background material. An expert group is also formed with the task of scrutinising the report with regard to its content and to ensure the balance of different aspects. The expert group will also help to formulate the conclusions of the study.

The parliamentary reference group discusses the final report and the concluding remarks. In most cases, a public hearing is held at the Riksdag when the report has been printed in order to both discuss the content of the report and to supplement the content with other aspects. The seminar is webcast and broadcast on television. These seminars are also open to the public.

Most of the TA projects, so far, have been expert-based but trials with public involvement have been carried out. Social media have also been used in order to involve the public. Some of the assignments from the committees have been inventory studies in different scientific areas and these can be used in order to:


Why technology assessment? This question was discussed even before the establishment of TA-SWISS. An instance that poses questions on new technologies in an impartial way is vital, and the following criteria are still valid today: how do new technologies develop, what has to be taken into account, how do they change everyday life in society and how might future scenarios look like? Additionally, the public debate needs to be encouraged today, too.

Politicians and citizens have to be supported in their decision making process by comprehensible illustrations and documentations of facts and circumstances. The results of TA-SWISS studies provide the required basics, information and recommendations on selected specialist fields. By contrast, the participative proceedings show how citizens rate specific future oriented technologies and topics. It reveals the advantages and disadvantages they ascribe to a certain technological development and it documents the needs of the population, e.g. the need for more transparent information or better protection. The discussions show where citizens see a need for action. In these projects, citizens are the experts representing the population at large. Studies as well as participative methods are employed by TA-SWISS in order to give a comprehensive survey of the chances and risks of new technologies and to favour a knowledge-based technology debate.

As the term "studies" anticipates: Studies are often very extensive and complex. Therefore, TA-SWISS prepares abridged versions of its technology assessment studies. The easily understandable abbreviated versions are essential in communicating the results to politicians and to an interested population. For the participative projects information brochures are first compiled. These brochures brief the citizens involved in a well-balanced way in order to familiarize them with the technological topic that is to be discussed in the citizen debate. A synthesis report will then be issued on the actual discussions. It will not only contain the results, but also the different chains of reasoning showing what was supported and what was criticized by the citizens and why. All these products are important for the realization of the formulated objectives: to support the public debate and to help politicians and citizens in making knowledge-based decisions.

Extensive public relation efforts are vital to reach these target groups. TA-SWISS organises media conferences or publishes articles to draw attention to its projects. Policy makers as well as the interested public receive printed and electronic newsletters and are invited to public presentations, workshops and debates on a regular basis. Politicians are confronted with the projects in personal dialogues and in discussions, and political groups, administrative authorities and expert groups are addressed by presentations and provided with written information material.


All POST research is conducted in-house by either its permanent staff or by one of its doctoral/post-doctoral fellows. These fellowships are a distinctive feature of POST. They are funded by many UK charitable scientific foundations, by learned societies, by most of the UK’s Research Councils and by individual universities. Through them, fellows spend usually three months at POST, working on one of its well-known "POSTnotes" or assisting a parliamentary committee. Well over 100 such fellows have now been at POST.

POST’s work lies heavily in the area of "expert analysis" conducted by the staff and fellows but augmented by an intense dialogue with outside individuals and organisations with a relevance to the subject area.

POST has, however, pioneered various methods of public engagement in the UK. It co-sponsored the first and second UK national "consensus conferences" – on genetically modified foods and radioactive waste management. A particular development was POST’s first-time use of online consultations at the UK Parliament, developed in partnership with committees during the course of an inquiry. POST has also organised public consultation meetings held in the constituency of a Commons Board member.

In 2007, the House of Commons Public Administration Committee recommended that POST should spearhead at the UK Parliament a greater focus on longer term issues. In many ways such a focus has always permeated POST’s work, but, in responding to the committee’s welcome recommendation, POST has put additional effort into this area, often in collaboration with the UK government’s Foresight and Horizon Scanning units.


As a scientific TA institute, the ITA is largely committed to classical TA, with its emphasis on expert orientations. Typical methods therefore include interviews with experts, and literature and document searches. The increasing integration of value-laden issues into TA projects is also leading to the increased use of participatory methods in TA. The ITA has taken note of and theoretically analysed this development, and since 2007 has also been using participatory elements and methods in its projects, ranging from focus groups and scenario workshops to citizen conferences.



The annual sessions of the Assembly are divided into four part-sessions, each lasting for about a week at the end of January, April, June and the beginning of October. The agenda for each part-session features debates on European and world events, and on key matters requiring action at European level. The Assembly´s plenary debates are held in public and they are conducted according to the principles commonly observed in national parliaments.


The Assembly can adopt three different types of texts: recommendations, resolutions and opinions. A two-thirds majority is required for questions such as a recommendation or an opinion to the Committee of Ministers or the adoption of urgent procedure. In respect of a resolution and any other decision, a majority of the votes cast is required. Recommendations, resolutions and opinions are published in a provisional edition after their adoption. A final version is published after each part-session in the official languages (English and French).


Committees meet most frequently either in Strasbourg or Paris, possibly in Brussels when a joint meeting with a body of the European Parliament is envisaged. Committee discussions are generally held in camera, but the committee is free to admit anybody to its meeting whom it wishes.

Although committees deal in particular with reports, they have great freedom to discuss any matter within their competence when they agree to do so. They organise hearings, colloquies or conferences on particular subjects, the findings of which can then be used for the preparation of reports to the Assembly.


In general, a motion for a recommendation or resolution generates reports. This motion has to be tabled by at least twenty representatives or substitutes belonging to at least five national delegations. It is then referred to a committee for report and possibly to other committees for opinion. The main committee then appoints a rapporteur who drafts a report, into two parts: Both parts are discussed in committee, but only the operational part is voted on. When a report has been adopted in the committee it is tabled for discussion by the Assembly either at a part-session or at a meeting of the Standing Committee.


Methods applied by BAS analysts include mostly desk study, interviews and consulting relevant sources of information. Methods involving citizens or any other forms of public consultation are not used. The most frequent outcome is a short information note (several pages) prepared individually by an analyst (BAS prepares 50–100 such notes per month). More profound analyses and reports are less frequent and they may be written individually or by a group of analysts. Standard period for completing a typical assignment is two weeks (much shorter in case of urgency), and one month for more laborious reports.


Once the decision to begin work on a technology assessment is made, the director of the assessment (the Chief Scientist or Chief Technologist) assembles a multi-disciplinary team appropriate for the topic. At this time, a production schedule is developed by the team that includes estimates for job design, data collection, message development, report drafting, report reviews, and report issuance. This schedule reflects GAO´s responsiveness to legislative timelines; our report production is designed to enable issuance within 12 months of job initiation, allowing the reports to be timely and useful to the Congress to support legislative issues, congressional hearings, or testimonies.

GAO technology assessments conducted by CSTE use methodology and data collection techniques that can consist of literature reviews; interviews and document requests from federal agencies, academia, industry, and other stakeholders; the use of groups of experts assembled for GAO through a contract with the U.S. National Academies; workshops, surveys, and focus groups; and analysis of the collected data. Process controls include extensive indexing and referencing of collected information that provide assurance that GAO findings, conclusions, and recommendations are supported. Draft reports undergo extensive review, both internal and external to GAO; internal stakeholders throughout GAO provide input for technology assessments through all phases of work and review the final product. GAO can use external experts, such as groups of experts assembled by the National Academies, to review the technology assessment draft report. Furthermore, federal agencies that GAO gathered information from have the opportunity to review the draft report and provide comments that are incorporated in the final report.

(c) EPTA, provided by ITA; version 01/2017