Assessment frameworks

Different kinds of assessments are carried out by different advisory bodies. The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) carry out ethical assessments. Technology Advisory Boards carry out technology assessments and foresights. The European Commission - as well as the individual European countries - commissions or undertakes impact assessments on larger policy initiatives. Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) is an important institution carrying out risk assessment on new and emerging technologies, along side national risk assessments.

Methodological choices
Within the main categories of assessment frameworks there are a diverse arsenal of methods, and some of these can be used in several of the general assessment frameworks. Uncertainty assessments, multi-criteria methods, cost-benefit approaches, etc. are common in assessments. In the design of specific assessments a number of methodological choices will also be done, for instance with regard to the involvement of experts versus lay people or stakeholders, the use of delphi techniques versus committee meetings, etc.

Depending on the policy context the assessments will vary with regard to the issue of transparency versus 'Chatham house rules', openness for contributions in the assessment process, etc. The assessments will also have explicit or implict normative baselines, for instance, with regard to what consequences are relevant to include, what is an acceptable level of risk, etc.

Assessment and governance
The need for technology assessments are correlated to the need for good technology governance. Good technology governance involves taking all socially relevant consequences of the technology into account, and balancing the expected benefits and costs of the issue at hand. Such holistic governance may involve developing research programmes, regulation, public-private responsibility partnerships, etc.

In the case studies EST-Frame studies current assessments in particular with regard to appraising to what extent they contribute to integrated technology governance. This involves studying how the assessments are being carried out, and how the relevant methodological choices are made.EST-Frame also includes a cross-sectoral comparison of assessments, with a focus on determining the relation between the assessments and uncovering any potential for further integration of technology advice.