Researching TA from home

Especially in times of a corona pandemic, technology assessment is needed more than ever.


What is happening?

The ITA team is still active, even though we now have to work from home. Our projects are running, new ones are starting and we are exploring further topics for technology assessment. Nevertheless, nothing is as it was two weeks ago. The coronavirus means a deep cut in our everyday life. Some of us currently experience parenting responsibilities and/or caring for relatives in need as well as working as a special challenge. We also regret that many events have been cancelled. The preparations for the Long Night of Research came to a stand-still. The monthly ITA seminar series with exciting experts had to be interrupted. This June, we wanted to celebrate the 20th edition of our annual TA conference together with the Network Technology Assessment (a community of German-speaking TA experts). The conference has now been moved to May 2021.

But we are continuing our research - because the assessment of technology impacts is important and necessary even in times of a pandemic.


New challenges, new questions


Even though we are of course continuing to work on our current projects, it is becoming apparent that new topics will be on the agenda in the post-Corona era. For example, we can now observe the effects of traffic reduction. It is likely that, as a side effect of the current drastic restrictions, there will also be positive effects on the global climate - whether or not this will be the case in the long term remains to be investigated. It is also possible that this development will lead to an intensified risk research in general, since everyone has now become aware of how fragile and presuppositional our way of life is.

How do we deal with the failure of critical infrastructure? Are we prepared for a widespread power failure? These questions have to be answered. The ITA has already provided initial answers in the study "Digital Breakdown". The Disaster Competence Network Austria (DCNA), in which the ÖAW and the ITA are also actively involved, should be upgraded. TA will also spend more time on whether this fundamental, global crisis will change the political and social perception of issues with long-term effects. The emphasis of evidence-based policy in this crisis, i.e. the significant increase in the attention paid to the expertise of epidemiologists, mathematicians, etc., could also become an amplifier for what TA always demands, namely for scientifically sound advice to policy-makers, especially with regard to socio-technical developments.


Data protection and home office

Data protection and privacy - these two topics have been occupying ITA for many years. The consequences of the motto "security through more technology", which has been accepted since 9/11, are far-reaching. Also home office - or as it was called in the past: teleworking - is such a current TA topic. Now more than ever, ITA researchers are also affected by this issue: How can we best maintain the principles of data protection, privacy and IT security despite the extensive conversion to home office? What effects does this type of collaboration have on our social fabric? Are we more or less productive? Which methods work, which do not? And: What influence will this unusual working style possibly have on the results of the work? Through our own experiences and further research we want to gain insights into a safer and more user friendly technology design in the future. (MN/DR)