Comparative Table of Parliamentary TA Institutions



STOA has been set up with a task to provide MEPs with scientific evidence for their decisions on issues with techno-scientific relevance. Assessing the impact of STOA and similar bodies and institutions is not straightforward because the legislation seldom quotes studies and reports. Also, policy-makers consult many different sources of information on a particular topic. Therefore, finding ways to directly assess the impact on decision-making in an objective way remains STOA's goal for the future.

Nevertheless, some information exists that indirectly illustrates the impact of STOA.

A recent increase in STOA Panel membership (from 15 to 24 MEPs) reflects a high interest among MEPs and committees and justifies the need for having STOA as a permanent structure of the EP. At the beginning of 2014 STOA carried out a survey among the 15 MEPs that formed the STOA Panel at the time, and a sample of the EP staff. The results showed that MEPs strongly agreed on their need for impartial science-based information, recognised STOA as a credible information source, but also considered that there was room for improving the quality of information, the format of products and the promotion of STOA, especially among MEPs who do not sit on the STOA Panel.

A very popular study on 'Mass surveillance of IT users' was published in the beginning of 2015. Around the same time, the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) produced a very successful report on 'Ten technologies which could change our lives', which is meant to feed into the priorities of the STOA Panel and parliamentary committees, in view of possible anticipatory, precautionary or regulatory action at European level.

Currently, more than 300 STOA newsletter subscribers are proactively informed about our studies and events.


The most important impact is "having and using visionary power". The committee for the Future is in the corn of political power. From the beginning the need for long-term examination of the future also at the core of democracy, i.e. in the parliamentary institution, has been recognised in the Finnish Parliament as being so important that there was a willingness to create a totally new institution specifically within the national legislature. Precisely for this reason, the Parliament has received a lot of international plaudits for its own innovation.

When it has worked well, the Committee´s operational model has been almost an ideal way of creatively and critically combining scientific and technological information with a search for innovative new political solutions. The Committee has enjoyed fairly good success, because sufficiently different politicians with broad minds and an interest in the new have sought membership of it. What is very important is that the Committee contains, on the one hand, very experienced, inquisitive and bold politicians and, on the other, also ambitious "rising stars" with a thirst for knowledge. It is likewise important that they represent the Finns in all their diversity of education, from farmer to professor. The second foundation stone for lasting success that can be pointed to is that the aim in the Committee´s reports is to be thorough and scientifically critical rather than trying to please the public or voters with showily produced and light pamphlet-style publications. Lighter versions of reports have been needed for information purposes, but the serious and thorough way that science deals with phenomena has not been overlooked.


The Office has progressively become an acknowledged instrument of parliamentary action. Several laws make provision either for it to be informed of, or to participate in the appointment of representatives of Parliament to various bodies, or for its representation, by its President or one of its members, on the board of directors of various organisations. It has also become a special interlocutor for the scientific community as a whole and maintains close links with it. The events bringing together the OPECST and high level scientific organisations, Académies, CEA, Cité des Sciences et de l?Industrie, CNRS, etc.? are the true illustration of this. Every year, several conferences and seminars are organised by the OPECST, either in relation to one of its reports or on a scientific or technological subject. Finally, the OPECST also contributes to the development of international parliamentary relations and takes part in various congresses and events, in particular at a European level. Thus, over the last few years, we have seen the setting?up of an information and exchange network, the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA), bringing together the European organisations responsible for conducting scientific and technological assessments for national Parliaments and the European Parliament.

In the near future, the OPECST would like to continue to strengthen its various missions and, in particular, to play a role in furthering the exchange between the political and scientific worlds.


It is far from easy to assess the direct impact that TA and related forms of scientific policy advice have on decision making. On the one hand the general rule applies, that proposed pieces of legislation never quote the sources of information by which they may be inspired. On the other hand, TA is only one of a multitude of voices that influence the decision making process. Because of the lack of direct evidence one has to rely on more indirect means to assess utilization and usefulness of TA "products" to the "customer", the Parliamentarians.

The first and maybe the most important criterion is the satisfaction of the Members of Parliament, which may be expressed openly in parliamentary debates or in more informal ways including face to face conversations. In fact TAB has fared quite well in this respect and there are numerous examples of MP´s highlighting their praise of TAB´s work.

A second one is the frequency of the occasions where Parliament in plenary debates and in Committee meetings deals with TAB-reports. The number of Committees that put TAB-reports on their agenda has indeed increased constantly in recent years. To a somewhat lesser extent the same holds true also for plenary debates, which documents the continuous practice of Parliament to consult technology assessment in complex scientific and technological issues.

Another indicator of how well received TAB´s advice is, is the demand for new TAB-studies, which continuously exceeds the capacity by a wide margin. For example, during a recent procedure of finding new topics, Parliament came up with close to 70 suggestions for new topics of which only 12 could be taken up because of capacity limitations.

And last but not least also the resonance in the media and the general public as well as the demand for electronic and printed versions of TAB products is an indication that TAB´s work is very well known and well received by many societal groups, may it be trade associations, NGOs, scientific and educational institutions, federal and regional ministries or others.

All in all, the interest in TAB´s activities both by expert audiences and the general public has stabilised on a high level. Even though TAB does not engage in intensive press and public relation activities, the resonance in the press and electronic media is very favourable and the TAB-staff is frequently asked for interviews or statements.


The special standing committees or subcommittees may decide or suggest an opinion when this is decided by the Conference of Presidents according to the Constitution the Parliament´s Standing Orders and the law or regulation of the relevant jurisdiction.
Any special Standing Committee may, during the preparation or proposal of a law and before the second reading of the articles, to give an opinion on a matter of great importance of that proposal, which falls within its competence.


The Rathenau Instituut’s studies and policy briefs often set the agenda for politicians, policymakers and the media, or give a particular twist to debates that seem mired in traditional black and white points of view.

Most of its projects are quoted in parliamentary documents, in the national media and on stakeholder websites. Our experts regularly appear in national newspapers, news sites and on TV. They are frequently asked to appear in – or help organise – debates, parliamentary committees and hearings or expert meetings.

There is a loyal and continually growing following for newsletters and social media projects, and the website pulls in ten thousand visitors a month. A recent survey showed that the readers of Flux Magazine highly appreciate the quality, depth and design of the magazine.

Several projects have led to obvious political and societal impact. Recent examples include the projects Emerging Markets of Body Materials and Effects of Research Priorities.

Emerging Markets of Body Materials was covered by the national media and became a recurring item in popular late night talk shows. It started a debate both on the opinion pages of national newspapers and in scientific magazines. Due to its impact, a Parliamentary Roundtable Committee was organised. The documentary "Baby for Sale" – a subtheme to the project – led to the formation of an official Cabinet Standpoint. Government bodies are currently working on the legislative issues pointed out in the study and the Rathenau Instituut’s researchers are providing assistance as experts.

Effects of Research Priorities (or Focus and Mass in Dutch policy lingo) studied the effects of investments in priority research fields such as nanotechnology, genomics, water, and high tech systems. The conclusion was that investments had not improved the international position of the Netherlands in these fields, nor had there been growth in these fields nationally. It led to a strong political debate within the research community.


There is ample evidence that reports of the NBT are used in policy, e.g. in issues related to eHealth and telecare, nanotechnology, and privacy. Several of our projects have set the agenda for politicians and media. Most of our projects make it to national newspapers, news sites, and TV.

One example is our project on eHealth, which in spring 2011 was the main story of the front page of Norway’s biggest newspaper Aftenposten, with several follow-ups in the days after the launch. The Board’s Director also kicked off a debate for politicians and stakeholders on national television.

Our project "You decide!" (teaching material on privacy and use of Internet), has been used by almost 1 million pupils all over the world. It started in Norway in 2007, and has since then been adapted to 16 countries.


TA - reports are often cited in committee reports and in chamber debates but can also be used in other forums such as the government, local authorities etc. Most of the committee seminars are webcast and broadcast on television.


Political decision-makers rely on assessments which demonstrate the consequences and social impact of technologies. The work of TA-SWISS is widely recognized for its quality and the impartiality of its assessments. It is vital for TA-SWISS to continually strive for these qualities in order to maintain support from all political sides.


Impact is difficult to assess due to the logistical and administrative obstacles encountered when attempting to survey or interview Parliamentarians, together with the fact that POST is one of many organisations delivering commentary on scientific issues. Nevertheless, some POST qualitative and quantitative data on POST’s impact is available and indicates that POST is a valued organisation. POST is currently developing more systematic ways of gathering and analyzing such data.

Around 220 MPs, 170 Peers, 10 MEPs, 44 MP researchers and 160 other parliamentary staff have "opted in" to receive copies of all POSTnotes. Those who are not on this mailing list still routinely pick up POSTnotes from the parliamentary libraries. Anecdotal reports indicate that Members are often seen holding and using POSTnotes in the debating chamber.

POSTnotes are particularly valued for their impartiality. In a survey conducted in 2009 one MP commented "There is so much depending on scientific judgements and scientific information and often it appears in the media as a particular slant, the key thing is that POST is independent and I have to say that I read their publications and I think they are excellent, just the right length and they are impartial and they are clear and I think it is excellent to have that". The same survey indicated that over 80 % of parliamentarians (out of a sample of 50) had used POSTnotes more than once in the past year.

In many cases POSTnotes are used to inform the work of Parliamentary Select Committees – for example POSTnote 368 on Rare Earth Metals was used to inform an inquiry into Critical Mineral Resources by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. POSTnotes are also often incorporated into "debate packs" which are information packs provided to Members prior to a debate.

POSTnotes are known to have considerable impact outside Parliament. This is indicated by download statistics, which show that POSTnotes usually account for around a third of all downloads from the Parliamentary website. Each month at least one POSTnote features among the top 5 most downloaded documents. POST also over 1,200 followers on twitter, a number which is rapidly growing, although only a small proportion of these are Members of Parliament. It also has a newsletter which has over 3,500 subscribers.


As an academic TA institution, the success of ITA can be measured in the number and quality of publications in academic journals and books (preferred peer-reviewed, English-speaking), of oral presentations at conferences (preferred invited keynotes at international events) and of third-party funds raised (preferred competitive grant research). These performance figures are core criteria in the annual reporting, the assessment by the Scientific Advisory Board and the regular evaluation teams. In addition, the number of popular science talks and publications as well as the media resonance is being reported.

Measuring the political impact of ITA´s studies is more difficult, as many studies (e.g. EUROpTA, TAMI) showed: sometimes a direct relationship between a project or its conclusions and a political decision can be established, but usually this is not the case. Nevertheless, ITA strives for such impact and tries to follow-up on results, though not always as systematically and actively as possible (there is certainly room for improvement). An indicator for success of ITA projects has been the capability to integrate TA results into the decision-making process at an early phase of the development of national and EU research programmes (AAL-benefit, EU Environmental Technologies Action Plan, EU Security Research Programme etc.).


All the commissioned work as well as BAS publications aim at supporting the legislative process with information and expert analysis. There is evidence they often serve the purpose. Some of the publications with strong TA component (e.g. on energy policy, innovation strategies) have influenced parliamentary debate and attracted media attention. Parliamentary TA and EPTA activities have recently been put on the agenda of the Committee for Innovations and New Technologies.


GAO´s technology assessment products are designed to provide balanced, objective, fact-based assessments of technologies in the context of federal programmes and/or public policy issues. Furthermore, in addition to GAO´s broad investigative and audit authorities, technology assessments conducted by GAO can further support the oversight, insight, and foresight functions of the U.S. Congress. For example, technology assessments can provide valuable information to support Congress as it develops policy and allocates funding, particularly in the context of strategic foresight.

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