CfP on Indicators in Technology Assessment

Call for Papers: Indicators in Technology Assessment. Passive choices or reflected options?

2nd European TA conference The Next Horizon of Technology Assessment Berlin, 25-27 February 2015

Session Organizers: Nuno Boavida1,2, Stefan Boeschen1

Affiliations: 1 Karlsruhe Institute of Technology – ITAS; 2 Universidade Nova de Lisboa – CesNova


Technology Assessment (TA) is dealing with complex problems. The description of complex problems and the strategies for their solution are heavily influenced by the use of indicators. For example, the debate about risks of nuclear power plants shifted in the moment the indicator of climate neutrality came in, because nuclear fission seemed to be a “green technology”. This use, selection and shift of indicators is not specific for this debate, but is to be found in any debate. With the use of indicators, the scope and quality of the problem addressed is fixed (e.g. sustainability: “Security of livelihood” or regulation of chemicals “toxicity”). Therefore, the systematic look on the use of indicators in TA is key to critically analyse such problems, their description and political relevance.

Against this background, the selection of indicators is a sensitive, crucial and sometimes hazardous exercise during a TA study in two ways. On the one hand, there is the use of indicators by actors in the field under analysis. They frame the problem in a way which is in correspondence to their normative background and economic-political interests. In fact, their selection can entail options that are not neutral, trivial or conscious, creating an implicit and sometimes controversial space for “indicator politics” in the exercise. On the other hand, there are the TA-experts using indicators to describe the problem and to evaluate options of action and decision. Therefore, it is important to have a close look on the criteria to select indicators which may be based on their policy relevance, utility, analytical soundness and measurability, as well as on other (un)conscious factors.

In this session we would like to reflect on the perils of the selection of indicators in both directions: the actors in risk-policy arenas using indicators for their purposes of describing and solving problems and the TA-experts using indicators to analyse such processes. Regarding this tension, we want to address the following questions: Is there sufficient reflection on the selection of indicators? Is the selection of indicators misleading to certain technology options? Or is it opening new technology options? What exactly is the role of indicators in TA exercises? Do they describe the initial problem? Are we creating space for reflexivity regarding the selection of indicators? Is this space sufficient?

With regard to the construction of TA-expertise, the argument is that TA exercises need a clear formulation of the initial problem and the indicators used to do so. This procedure should allow a transparent selection of indicators that describe the problem. A TA exercise should also include space to reflect about the inclusion and the non-inclusion of certain indicators. In addition, the analysis phase should include a reflexive process about the selection of indicators, before technology options are suggested and recommendations elaborated.

We would like to invite both theoretical contributions and practical cases coming from all types of technologies such as energy, electric storage systems, mobility, health, nano-technologies, ICT, etc. Contributions should reflect on the effects of choices of indicators in TA exercises.

Please send your abstract directly to and Further information about the pane can be found here: Information about the conference can be found here:

Session Duration: 1,5 h

Keywords: Indicators, problems, actors, experts, reflexivity, Technology Assessment