Comparative Table of Parliamentary TA Institutions


The Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB) has been advising Parliament on important questions of technological and social change since 1990. The primary aim is to supply Parliament with information providing a scientific basis for its debates and decision making.

Technology assessment (TA), as TAB sees it, has the following tasks: All this is the basis for developing alternative options for the policy-making process.


As in other industrialized countries, public debates on technology assessment (TA) started in Germany in 1972–1973, prompted by the creation of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) of the U.S. Congress and the prior intensive debate on TA and its institutionalisation. This debate only bore fruit in 1989 with a parliamentary resolution to create the »Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung beim Deutschen Bundestag«. The organisational model adopted has two key features.

The Governing Political Body

The Research and Technology Committee, which was given the responsibility for initiating TA investigations and controlling them politically, was renamed »Committee for Research, Technology and Technology Assessment«. The Committee’s secretariat was expanded in line with these new responsibilities.

The Operational TA Unit

Under the terms of the Bundestag resolution, an appropriate scientific institution outside Parliament must be selected through tender and commissioned to establish and operate the TA unit. The legal basis for this is a supplement to section 56 of the Bundestag’s Rules of Procedure. The TA unit to be established will work exclusively for the Bundestag. It has to ensure parliament-specific presentation and communication of the results of its work.

On 29 August 1990, after a tendering procedure and at the proposal of the then Committee on Research and Technology, a contract was signed with the Karlsruhe Nuclear Research Centre for a three-year pilot phase and the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB) was founded. Since then, it has been operated by the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) Centre (before 1995 it was named AFAS, Department for Applied Systems Analysis) of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), a merger of the Karlsruhe Research Centre and the University of Karlsruhe.

After the conclusion of the pilot phase, the German Bundestag decided on 4 March 1993 to establish a permanent advisory institution »Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag«, as a result of the positive findings of the responsible Committee for Research, Technology and Technology Assessment. Since that time, the TA unit is run on the basis of a series of contracts with a duration of five years each. The last major change was in 2002 the decision that ITAS would cooperate in specific areas with the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Karlsruhe. The current contract runs till September 2013.


TAB is operated by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) under a contract with the German Bundestag. TAB is an independent scientific unit of the Institute for Technology Assessment and System Analysis (ITAS). TAB and ITAS cooperate in conducting research as well as in developing concepts and methods of technology assessment.

The Director of TAB is appointed by KIT in consultation with the responsible Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment. Professor Armin Grunwald, who also heads the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, is responsible for the scientific results of TAB´s work and represents them vis à vis the German Bundestag.

The director of TAB and his or her staff are, in matters of content, not bound by instructions of the KIT with respect to any tasks assigned to them by the Bundestag, and that the director of TAB has responsibility for the scientific accuracy of the results produced by TAB and also has sole responsibility for selection TAB staff. TAB is located in Berlin. Currently, eight scientists from various disciplines are employed there.

As TAB´s governing body, the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment is chiefly responsible for deciding on the work programme, approving final reports, and communicating with the Members of Parliament and its committees. It has a standing »TA rapporteur group«, with one member from each parliamentary political party. This group prepares all the decisions on TAB to be taken by the Committee, from the decision to carry out a TA project through to approval of the final report. The Committee secretariat assists the rapporteurs in their work.


Proposals for TA-studies can come from one or many of the parliamentary groups in the Committee for Education, Research and Technology Assessment as well as any of the other committees in the German Bundestag. Under the guidance of the committee chairwoman, the TA-rapporteurs along with the director of TAB discuss the political and factual relevance of requested topics. TAB submits a statement for every proposal on its scientific workability as well as considerations of the objectives, substance, and methods. Topics are then selected and unanimously presented to the committee for debate and decision. A proposal is accepted when a third of the committee members do not oppose it.


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 topics on which TAB conducts assessments comprise a broad range of actual scientific and technological issues with high relevance for politics. One focal point lies on the field of environment and health, examples are reports on »Medicines for Africa«, and »Geoengineering«. Another focus is on the dynamic and controversial issue of bio- and gene technology. To this, TAB submitted reports such as »Gene Doping«, »Transgenic Seeds in Developing Countries«. Examples for projects in the field of resources and energy are »Renewable Energy Sources to Secure the Base Load in Electricity Supply«, »Energy Storage Technologies«, »Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage «.

Under the umbrella of technology, society and innovation, TAB studies are focused on identifying potential areas of innovation as well as the strengths and weaknesses of Germany´s innovation system. Furthermore, another focus of these studies are the challenges of research, education, and innovation policies.



In accordance with its mandate, the work of TAB is focused on the German Bundestag. An important role in parliamentary proceedings is played by the committees to which TAB reports are routinely forwarded for deliberation. These committees are crucial actors in using and disseminating the findings of TAB. Over time, the range of committees initiating TA studies (and discussing TAB reports) has grown considerably.

Besides this primary audience, all other Members of Parliament, parliamentary committees, staff of the parliamentary political parties and of Members of Parliament as well as the Scientific Service of German Bundestag comprise the audience for and potential users of the results of TA processes. In addition there are study commissions, to which there are often close informal contacts. The Federal and State ministries also follow the work of TAB with close interest. Finally, companies, government agencies, research institutions and educational institutions and - not least - interested members of the public also call upon TAB findings.

Parliamentary TA is also designed as a forum for public discussion. Intensive communication of project results, e.g. by presentations at public sessions of the Committee, workshops with experts and representatives of societal organisations (interest groups, NGOs), and press conferences and discussions enhance the visibility of parliamentary TA. In this way it becomes clear to a broad public that German Bundestag is also looking beyond daily business, to take a scientifically well-based approach to long-term prospects in technological and social development.


The results of the TA projects and other TAB work are documented and made available as TAB working reports and background and discussion papers. Selected reports are issued as printed papers of German Bundestagt (Bundestagsdrucksache). Since 1996, selected final reports on TA projects have appeared in the series »Studies by the Office of Technology Assessment at German Bundestag«, published by edition sigma, Berlin. TAB and its current information are also accessible on the Internet ( and on the German Bundestag intranet. The TAB letter appears twice a year, and contains primarily information on the TAB working programme and reports on the findings of TAB projects and monitoring activities.


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.


In view of the highest accolade that Parliamentarians voice with respect to their satisfaction with TAB´s work, there is no need for radical changes but rather a continuous evolutionary adaptation to ever changing circumstances and framework conditions.

One important issue in this context is the notion to devise parliamentary TA gradually more as a forum for public deliberation and discussion. An intensified public-oriented communication of the results of parliamentary TA and the design and testing of alternative formats for presentation could be means to improve the active role of Parliament in the handling of cross-sectional and future related topics of high societal relevancy.


Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung
beim Deutschen Bundestag (TAB)
KIT – Karlsruher Institut für Technologie
Neue Schönhauser Straße 10
10178 Berlin

Director: Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald

Fon  +49 30 28 49 10
Fax  +49 30 28 49 11 19

© EPTA, provided by ITA; version 19 Oct 2012