Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften http://www.oeaw.ac.at de-at Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Tue, 24 May 2022 14:08:00 +0100 Tue, 24 May 2022 14:08:00 +0100 Typo3 news-22493 Thu, 05 May 2022 14:39:01 +0200 Mit einem Klick zum Glück? https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/mit-einem-klick-zum-glueck Die Lange Nacht der Forschung ist wieder da und das ITA ist dabei! Am 20. Mai geht es bei uns im neuen ÖAW-Campus um die Folgen von Online-Shopping, die Macht von Künstlicher Intelligenz und andere brennende gesellschaftliche Fragen. Online-Shopping, unsichtbare Nanoteilchen, mächtige KI

Vom Sofa aus einkaufen ist bequem. Doch die Bestellung nach Hause bedeutet oft längere Transportwege bzw. schlechte Arbeitsbedingungen für den Versand.  Wenn Geschäfte schließen, betrifft das außerdem unsere Jobs und das Stadtbild. Wärt ihr bereit, auf umweltfreundliche Alternativen umzusteigen und ab und zu beim Laden an der Ecke einzukaufen? Wir haben Wiener Schüler*innen gefragt und diskutieren auf der Langen Nacht die Ergebnisse unseres Workshops.

Vom ITA mit dabei sind außerdem Expert*innen, die sich mit Künstlicher Intelligenz und ihrer Macht über uns befassen: Was wissen wir über Überwachungsalgorithmen von Google, Facebook und Co. und wie sie unser Einkaufs- und Onlineverhalten steuern? Systeme entscheiden über uns. Wie die ihnen zugrunde liegenden Algorithmen funktionieren, ist oft nicht nachvollziehbar. Wie kann man den Einsatz von KI so gestalten, dass Menschen dabei nicht entmündigt werden?

Über die Umwelt geht es beim Thema Nanotechnologien, zu dem das ITA forscht. Gefährden Nanopartikel die Umwelt? Können Nanomaterialien in Solarpanelen Nachhaltigkeit fördern? All diese Fragen beantwortet unser Nano-Team für Euch.

Jede Technik hinterlässt Spuren in der Gesellschaft. Technik hat Folgen – kommt und diskutiert am 20. Mai mit den Forscher*innen des Instituts für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung der ÖAW!

Lange Nacht der Forschung 2022 - ITA Standort

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news-22373 Thu, 28 Apr 2022 09:56:40 +0200 Are we being disempowered through Artificial Intelligence? https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/are-we-being-disempowered-through-artificial-intelligence An ITA Study for the Austrian Chamber of Labour (AK) shows the power of AI over consumers. In a press conference, AK and ITA criticise the often incomprehensible decisions made by algorithms and call for a more far-reaching EU law. Artificial intelligence (AI) is already an integral part of many everyday applications, from search engines to loans. How decisions are made is often unclear. At a press conference on Thursday, the Austrian Chamber of Labour (AK) presented a study by the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The authors ask how comprehensible artificial intelligence is and demand more transparency to enable the foresight of negative effects or also – to settle damages already done.

EU efforts fall short

"The EU is currently regulating the legal framework for an AI law, but is forgetting about the consumers", criticises AK consumer protector Daniela Zimmer. "AI can be useful, but it can also be socially explosive, for example if a numerical value calculated by AI reduces life chances. Therefore, consumers need protection against the erosion of their fundamental rights and freedoms, against intransparency, discrimination and other risks of harm posed by analytics software," says Zimmer, and calls for an amendment of the EU draft for a new AI law.

Project leader Walter Peissl, who co-wrote the study together with ITA researchers Daniela Fuchs and Titus Udrea, is concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the spread of AI systems: "It is not clearly defined what AI includes. It is not just a matter of a too narrow - purely technical - definition that would leave many applications unregulated. The interests of consumers are neglected in both the development and regulation of AI. However, transparency about the algorithms used is necessary and also possible. If these requirements are not met, the use of AI should be avoided, because the responsibility must remain with the people," says Peissl.

Social effects of AI just as important as economic success

Above all, it is important to understand that every technology also leaves its mark on society: "AI decisions that are not transparent or perceived as unfair can divide society and endanger democracy," stresses Zimmer. One of numerous recommedations given in the study is to generally register AI systems whose decisions affect humans and to certify them according to expected risk. That would strengthen consideration of consumer interest, says Peissl.

"We have to ask ourselves how and with what consequences AI is used in everyday life, because our social interaction with each other is being massively reshaped by it," Peissl emphasises. As examples, he mentions credit scores when granting loans or automated application procedures as well as microtargeting activities in social networks. "We must therefore always consider AI in a social context, and this must also be laid down as a law."

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news-22336 Tue, 26 Apr 2022 13:02:08 +0200 What is Pop-Up Housing and why do we need it https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/what-is-pop-up-housing-and-why-do-we-need-it Natural disasters, migration due to crises - temporary forms of housing can provide relief in all these situations. A team of researchers has designed various models for "pop-up housing" in Vienna that are tailored to different needs. "It was essential that the housing forms we devise are sustainable, i.e. that we use environmentally friendly materials for them, that they are low-waste, water- and energy-saving and that we can set them up and take them down again quickly," emphasises Gloria Rose from the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The result of the project "Pop-Up housing" are six housing models that are adapted to such different target groups as students, refugees, people with impairments or people in social crises.

Protection from extreme weather conditions

The Life on Track(s) - Tinytainer model can be used, for example, in the event of a flood disaster: "We are converting freight containers for this purpose, which can accommodate about 40 people at short notice. They can be quickly moved on rails to the place of action and are equipped with electricity, water and heating", explains Rose. The "Beat the Heat" model is designed to provide people with temporary shelter from the heat in naturally cooled rooms.

Social connection

Then there is the "Life Sharing to go" model: an old factory building that offers private accommodation, a communal kitchen and generous space to interact with or even learn from fellow residents. "Not only accommodation, but also the acquisition of skills and integration into society and the labour market play a role here," says Rose.

Using empty space and vacant areas

In the "DonAutonom" scenario, living space for a maximum of three months is made available from freight containers with autonomous energy supply and water treatment. People who like to experiment with self-sufficiency options could be accommodated here. In the "Flat-Pack" model, wooden modules in commercial spaces give rise to living units. With the "Gap Module", on the other hand, an entire building can be temporarily erected on a fallow site at short notice.

No substitute for housing

"It is clear that these models do not replace housing. But they can be helpful in certain situations as a stop-gap measure and offer the opportunity to gain experience and learn about sustainable building and housing. They should therefore also be recognised and organised by those responsible," says Rose. What is special about this project is that the temporary housing models developed here are also experimental spaces. "We want to analyse the experiences of those who use pop-up housing and record them in such a way that an international exchange is possible. Pop-up housing is a global phenomenon that should also find space in Austria."

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News Startseite_DE Gloria Rose
news-22274 Wed, 20 Apr 2022 12:17:05 +0200 Does digitalisation endanger the future of democracy? https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/does-digitalisation-endanger-the-future-of-democracy A new book focuses on the relationship between technology and freedom. Among the authors are Oxford professor Philipp Howard, Gerda Falkner (member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences) and ITA director Michael Nentwich. We conduct democratic elections by means of machines, form our opinions about world events thorough the internet and virtually do not exist if our data does not show up. Digitalisation has far-reaching consequences.

The recently published anthology „Digitalisierung und die Zukunft der Demokratie” (Nomos Verlag) contains contributions by editors Michael Nentwich and Alexander Bogner (both ITA, Austrian Academy of Sciences), Constanze Scherz and Michael Decker (both ITAS, Germany), as well as essays by critical voices such as Academy member Gerda Falkner, who observes a restriction of freedom of opinion in hidden methods such as "nudging", the technology philosopher Julian Nida-Rümelin or Oxford professor Philipp Howard, who strongly criticises the inactivity of social media in the case of fake news.

Social media as misleading echo chamber?

ITA researchers Alexander Bogner and Stefan Strauß argue in der article that social media can also promote the digital freedom of opinion of civil society. However, the fact that this same medium lends a voice not only to Greenpeace, but also serves as an echo chamber for right-wing or nationalistic groups is the dark side of this development, the authors say.

"This problem is intensified by the use of algorithms to maximise attention, cause outrage or increase the time spent on the respective platform instead of promoting discourse on socially relevant topics.  This leads to side effects such as manipulation and polarisation," emphasises Jaro-Krieger Lamina (ITA), who co-author an essay dealing with the effects of algorithms on opinion forming and political processes.

Deepfakes and polarisation threaten democracy

"The aim of the book is to offer answers to questions that concern us all," says ITA Director Michael Nentwich. "We are experiencing a world in which reality is often no longer separable from fiction, just think of deepfakes and misinformation spreading at lightning speed. How should we address the challenges posed by polarisation and the inaction of platform giants against it? When we look for answers, knowledge from technology assessment is just as relevant as philosophy, political science and law," Nentwich emphasises.

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news-22204 Mon, 11 Apr 2022 13:31:36 +0200 5 Fragen an... Michael Nentwich https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBZYTWmnNqo Michael Nentwich, Leiter des Instituts für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA) der Akademie der Wissenschaften, spricht im TATuP-Interview über seinen Antrieb als Forscher, die sichtbaren Auswirkungen des flächendeckenden Einsatzes von KI auf unsere Gesellschaft und seine Idee für eine Agentur für Public Understanding of Science. (Host: Youtube) News Startseite_DE OpenTA Michael Nentwich news-22022 Thu, 24 Mar 2022 11:22:40 +0100 Follow the Science? Politikberatung in Krisenzeiten https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/follow-the-science-politikberatung-in-krisenzeiten Im neuen ITA-Dossier beleuchtet Buchautor Alexander Bogner den Kampf um das "bessere Wissen" in der Krise, und warum gute Politik mehr braucht als wissenschaftliche Fakten. Ob Corona oder Klima: In vielen Krisen und Konflikten wird um das bessere Wissen gestritten. Große Bedeutung hat in diesen Auseinandersetzungen die wissenschaftliche Expertise.

Für Alexander Bogner, Soziologe am Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA) der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und Autor des 2021 erschienenen Buches "Die Epistemierung des Politischen – Wie die Macht des Wissens die Demokratie ge-
fährdet" greift der beliebte Spruch „Follow the science!“ aber zu kurz: "Politik ist mehr, als einzig auf Fakten zu reagieren. Wir brauchen daher eine Politikberatung, die Wissens- und Wertefragen berücksichtigt."

Im neuen ITA-Dossier erläutert Bogner die Hauptthese seines Buches: "Unabhängige Politikberatung ist gerade in Krisenzeiten wesentlich. Wenn wir Technikfolgenabschätzung betreiben, dann müssen wir aber auch die Beteiligung der Öffentlichkeit mit einberechnen. Laienwissen spielt in Krisen ebenfalls eine bedeutende Rolle, und politische Entscheidungen sollten sich immer an mehreren Quellen orientieren", ist Bogner überzeugt.

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news-21939 Thu, 17 Mar 2022 11:45:27 +0100 All about Nano – new ITA webpage goes online https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/all-about-nano-new-ita-webpage-goes-online Do nanoparticles endanger the environment? Can nanomaterials in solar panels promote sustainability? All about the ITA’s ongoing nano research, important events and current news can now be found on the new NanoTrust webpage. Nanomaterials are omnipresent, be it in industries such as aerospace or computer technology, or in the medical field. How nano and other innovative materials affect humans and the environment and what risks need to be assessed is a central field of the ITA’s research. All ITA activities on nanotechnologies and nanomaterials can now be found on the new NanoTrust webpage.

NanoTrust-Advanced, the continuation of the long-term project NanoTrust, investigates safety and risk-relevant aspects of nanomaterials and other innovative materials. "When we started in 2007, we were one of the first scientific institutions in Austria to research how nanotechnologies affects our health and our environment. On the new NanoTrust webpage we can now present the multitude of results that we gathered over this period, we are thrilled to see it happening!", emphasises project manager André Gaszó.

Research results are also published in the NanoTrust dossiers and in scientific journals. The annual NanoTrust conference focuses on global issues of nanoresearch.

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News NanoTrust News Startseite_DE OpenTA Anna Pavlicek Gloria Rose André Gazsó
news-21731 Mon, 07 Mar 2022 12:53:42 +0100 How far should artificial intelligence go? https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/how-far-should-artificial-intelligence-go Artificial intelligence has the potential to massively endanger our fundamental right to data protection and privacy. A new EU law is to define what AI can and cannot do. On March 28, experts will discuss recent proposals and identify gaps at PANELFIT'S final event at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The use of "artificial intelligence" (AI) is advancing, globally and in Europe. Digitisation produces more data as well as more possibilities to analyze it using AI. Yet it is hardly, if at all, possible to understand how AI really works and what happens to our data - whether it is sold to private companies, for example, or forwarded for other purposes.

Johann Čas, data protection expert at the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Christiane Wendehorst (University of Vienna) and Charles Raab (University of Edinburgh) discuss ethical concerns and hopeful initiatives with other experts at the conference "Managing a secure future with AI - too many guidelines and too little guidance?":

Human autonomy at risk

"As with all new technological developments, Artificial intelligence raises hopes but also fears. Only with AI, there is hardly anyone who can explain how these applications really work. This "black box" presents us with new challenges: How can we protect human autonomy and dignity? In which areas can decisions be transferred to AI without hesitation, which decisions require human action? And how can politics guarantee standards when a few global companies dominate the market?", emphasizes Čas.

Keynote speaker Christiane Wendehorst conducted a study on an internationally applicable AI law on behalf of the Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs, one focus of her research is biometric data collection. The second keynote will be delivered by Charles Raab, one of the leading European voices in the field of ethics, privacy and surveillance. The conference is one of four final events of the EU project Panelfit, which involved the ITA and twelve other European partner institutions from fields such as technology assessment, research ethics or data protection. The aim of the project is to help shape paths for an ethically and socially safe future with AI.

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news-21679 Tue, 01 Mar 2022 13:33:44 +0100 Wie diskriminierend sind Computersysteme? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0ueTXsVcOM Algorithmen sind nicht objektiv. ITA-Forscherin Doris Allhutter erklärt im Video, wie lernende Systeme diskriminieren. News Startseite_DE news-21504 Thu, 10 Feb 2022 18:18:16 +0100 Looking East! https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/looking-east-en With Covid-19, politicians have listened to science more than ever before. Technology Assessment (TA) stands for promoting socially and ethically sound decision-making. An online conference will focus on efforts in Eastern and Central Europe, registration is now open. Technology Assessment (TA) looks at how new technologies affect society, the environment, and the economy. On March 21, researchers from 11 Central and Eastern European countries will present their current TA activities in an online conference organised by the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Researchers from all backgrounds find themselves united by the same goal: to ensure that new technological developments take social and environmental aspects, i.e. waste management or privacy, into account. „We want to be a strong voice for a human and fair approach to research and innovation“, says Michael Nentwich, head of ITA. „We truly believe that science and research are the building blocks to help governments make better decisions when it comes to critical social issues such as Artificial Intelligence or sustainable energy.”

„After years of efforts, we can now finally say that Technology Assessment is well established and institutionalised in Western Europe“, Nentwich continues. The newly founded globalTA initiative even includes researchers from South America and Asia.  „The goal of the conference is to gain insight into activities in Eastern and Central Europe. We aim to expand the network of interested academics and other actors to promote TA and learn from each other.”

To register for the online conference, send an email to tamail@oeaw.ac.at. You will receive a Zoom link to join the event. For the complete programme, click here.

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news-21407 Tue, 01 Feb 2022 11:38:54 +0100 Crowded sidewalks, empty trains https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/crowded-sidewalks-empty-trains The Covid-19 pandemic completely changed Vienna traffic. Bike lanes and pedestrian zones popped up (and disappeard), and public transportation numbers dropped to 80 percent fewer passengers in 2020. ITA researchers Tanja Sinozic and Gloria Rose analysed these changes, and suggest we should keep some around. Inequalities in society visibly surfaced

The way people stay mobile often reflects their income. Traffic behavior during the strict Vienna lock-downs clearly demonstrated that car owners were able to get out of the city and into the countryside more often and more quickly. People with lower incomes were often forced to continue using public transport, especially if they held a job in critical infrastructure. "Inequality in society was definitely exacerbated by the pandemic. It was also reflected in mobility. Many didn't have an extra room for the home office and suddenly weren't mobile. Others had to become mobile to secure an income, for example as a messenger for a delivery service," says Gloria Rose.

The COVPOL project was dedicated to the impact of the covid pandemic on mobility in Vienna in 2020 and 2021. To get a clearer picture, project manager Tanja Sinozic and her colleague spoke with universities and research institutes, regulatory authorities, public utilities, companies from the mobility sector and NGOs.

Public transportation backed by public sector

"With an 80 percent collapse in demand, many companies would have had a hard time surviving. Vienna’s public transport was able to survive because it is publicly financed and therefore has a high level of resilience," stresses Sinozic, who has a background in economics. “The fact that mobility is understood as a "duty of the public sector" has thus proven itself in the crisis.”

E-scooters and car-sharing companies, by the way, were less able to cushion the losses: companies withdrew, entire business concepts collapsed. "We also saw that traffic was suddenly lower during the week than on weekends, as people wanted to do outdoor recreational activities," she adds.

Bike lanes remain underdeveloped

Many respondents criticized the fact that pop-up bike lanes, such as those along Praterstraße or Hörlgasse, as well as added spaces for pedestrians, were not maintained and the rush of traffic is back. "It's hard to establish something if it's not a dedicated goal," Sinozic explains. In any case, Sinozic and Rose see an ongoing discussion about a fair distribution of space in Vienna: "The crisis triggered increased attention to long-standing problems such as overcrowding, narrow sidewalks, traffic jams, or even the change in mobility due to digitalization."

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News Startseite_DE Covid-19 News OpenTA Gloria Rose Tanja Sinozic
news-21395 Mon, 31 Jan 2022 13:06:08 +0100 Parliament receives study on blackout preparedness https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/blackout-preparedness How well is Austria prepared for a blackout? A newly published ITA-AIT study looks for answers. Find out more here. The energy transition brings new challenges: How well is the Austrian power grid prepared for the possibility of a blackout, i.e. the large-scale failure of the power grid over a longer period of time?

The Austrian Parliament commissioned the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) and the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology to conduct a study on this issue. The final report "Secure Power Supply and Blackout Prevention in Austria: Developments, Risks and Possible Protective Measures”, which has just been completed, is now available on Parliament's website. The ITA has also summarized the topic visually as an infographic.

The power grid needs flexibility

For Stefan Strauß, Senior Scientist at ITA, the focus is on reacting in time to major changes such as climate change or digitalization: "Climate change, digitalization and the energy transition bring structural changes to the power grid. We also see that the topic of "blackout" has gained in importance. In order to ensure security of supply in the future, we need to implement precautionary measures to safeguard the power system and improve response capabilities in the event of a crisis," said Strauß.

Another important component for safeguarding security of supply in the future is a forward-looking safeguarding of reserve capacities as a whole: "In order to better integrate new technologies such as electromobility and decentralized photovoltaic systems into the power grid, we should make the grids fit for the future and create additional flexibility in the system," emphasizes ITA-researcher Steffen Bettin, who was part of the project team.

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News Startseite_DE OpenTA Steffen Bettin Michael Ornetzeder Stefan Strauß Doris Allhutter
news-21359 Thu, 27 Jan 2022 12:47:21 +0100 Nano-safety through standards https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/nano-safety-through-standards Nanomaterials such as nanoplastics or nanosilver are used in many products. For years, tons of particles have spread in the environment. In a new ITA Dossier on Nano safety André Gazsó and his team explain why early risk assessment is crucial. André Gazsó, Senior Reseacher at the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, has been analysing the spread of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials since 2010. He believes there is still a need for a better clarification of their properties and a necessity for international standardisation:

"Nanomaterials, like all new technical developments, are associated with great uncertainties in addition to their advantages. That is why we urgently need to create international standards in the field of nanotechnology to ensure more safety," Gazsó emphasises. A first step has been achieved: Austrian nano-researchers and scientists with an expertise in technology assessment now share the room when health and environmental effects of nanomaterials are discussed in international standards committees.

In the recently published ITA dossier "NanoStandards", Gazsó and his colleagues Gloria Rose and Anna Pavlicek describe the dangers and risks of nanomaterials and give recommendations for policy-makers and the Austrian nano-research landscape.

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news-21332 Tue, 25 Jan 2022 11:45:08 +0100 Media Highlights 2021 https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/highlights-des-jahres Mass surveillance through biometrics, Covid's influence on the relationship between science and politics, search engines with bias, the risks of a large scale blackout - 2021 was an exciting year for technology assessment. Here are our most read research results. Experts are not politicians

In 2021, the public discourse of Corona focused not on epidemiological aspects alone. Other central questions were the relationship between science and politics and how far democracies can prevent the spread of the virus through controversial measures such as lock-downs or mandatory vaccination. A leading voice in this discussion was ITA expert Alexander Bogner, who stressed that science and expert advice could not take the place of politics, but only counsel decision-makers to make the right choices to protect their constituencies. Bogner urged governments to listen to their citizens to implement a long-lasting consciousness for effective crisis management. He was cited in numerous German and Austrian media outlets such as Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, ORF or Der Standard. Listen to the OeAW-Podcast with Alexander Bogner

Mass surveillance through biometrics

Our face unlocks our mobile phone. But what happens when we are recorded and identified by cameras without knowing it? A new ITA study in cooperation with the Austrian Chamber of Labour examined the advantages and disadvantages of biometrics. Walter Peissl, Deputy Director of the ITA and co-author, urged policymakers to protect citizens against mass surveillance and data misuse. "Before resorting to these technologies, policymakers, companies, and administrations should first ask themselves whether the processing of biometric data is necessary, meaningful and in proportion to the task at hand”, Peissl was quoted as saying in a large number of Austrian media outlets. Read more on our resarch of biometrics here

Parliamentary advice on blackout risk

How do we protect ourselves in different blackout scenarios? Our electricity grid is currently undergoing a complete transformation. But what happens in the event of a large-scale failure? The Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, together with the AIT – Austrian Institute of Technology, asks how a rapid restoration of the power supply can be guaranteed even after the switch to renewable energies. The announcement was widely cited and the outcomes of the study have been delivered to Parliament at the beginning of 2022. More: Blackout prevention and power supply safety in Austria

Bias and discrimination through algorithms and search engines

Search engines are not neutral. Human workers are responsible for the algorithms that feed them and the mechanics behind so-called “machine learning” processes. In 2021, the ITA researchers Doris Allhutter and Astrid Mager continued their studies on the pitfalls and less known aspects surrounding artificial intelligence and digitisation. Astrid Mager spoke at the prestigious Open Search Symposium organised by CERN, and Doris Allhutter addressed concerns about sexism, racism, and prejudice embedded in algorithms. Read more on algorithms and bias in machine learning here.

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News Startseite_DE Covid-19 News OpenTA
news-21262 Mon, 03 Jan 2022 15:20:00 +0100 Portrait: The Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/portrait-the-institute-of-technology-assessment-ita Technology assessment focuses on issues such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and the effects digitization and the energy transition will likely have on Europe. Its priority is always the impact of technologies on the individual and on society, but it also assesses their environmental and economic implications. by Denise Riedlinger und Michael Nentwich

How do we, as a society, deal with the omnipresence of smart technologies? Is artificial intelligence neutral or marred by inherent, not instantly recognizable biases and prejudices? What fears and reservations are created when expert knowledge is translated one-to-one into policies in the midst of a pandemic? These are just some of the questions the dynamic and future-oriented discipline of technology impact assessment addresses. The varied nature of the ITA’s work is reflected not least in the composition of its team. Its members bring expertise in fields ranging from business to sociology, physics, engineering, human biology, economics and politics to the institute’s interdisciplinary research, and it proactively fosters the development of early career researchers likely to make a meaningful contribution to this kind of research. Our colleagues also interact with students in a variety of teaching roles, sensitizing them to the social and environmental impact of technological developments. Some of our current research topics are:

Blackout and Cyber Security

How might we protect ourselves in the face of various blackout scenarios? How do Austrian enterprises measure up globally in terms of cyber security? The ITA is currently collaborating with the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) to provide answers to these questions and suggest suitable solutions to Austrian legislators. Needless to say, scientific scrutiny of the impact of various technologies has the potential to render guidance that would greatly benefit political, administrative and wider public decision-making processes. We have undertaken research for several government departments and stakeholders such as the Chamber of Labour and, since 2017, have also been advising the Austrian parliament. Our goal is to inform decisionmakers of important technological developments and trends at an early stage. Prior to the current research on blackouts and cyber security, the ITA produced an assessment of knowledge pertaining to the nexus between G5 and health and a report on intermediate storage as one of the technologies central to the energy transition.

Is Expert Knowledge a Panacea in the Pandemic?

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ITA team has been undertaking a variety of research projects on the pandemic and its impact on society. One of the crucial questions concerns the role science might play in dealing with a pandemic. To what extent can expert knowledge fulfil the expectations placed in it? Can it replace political decision making? If certain disciplines such as virology suddenly take center stage, what does this mean for other relevant disciplines such as psychology or the social sciences? Might the pandemic propel us towards total surveillance? By addressing questions of this kind, we seek to do justice to the valuable contributions not instantly obvious disciplines too are able to make in an emergency.

AI, Privacy and Data Protection

Social engagement with technologies that are fundamentally transforming our everyday lives and profoundly infringe on our daily experiences and privacy is a matter of considerable urgency. The ITA has long been addressing these issues with various projects. For example, in 2020, we published a widely noted critical exploration of the Austrian AMS algorithm designed to categorize job searchers.

We explore the significance of AI for the labour market from a number of vantages. Our various activities in this field include the publication of the book, When Algorithms Decide for us. AI—Opportunities and Risks, and the Elise Richter project, Performativity in Software Design: A So-ciopolitical Approach to Software Development Practices, which highlighted the concealed manual input of human knowledge into AI undertaken in low-income countries. In addition, we have collaborated with the Chamber of Labour on issues such as facial recognition, credit ratings, concealed data collection on smart phones and digital assistance systems.

NanoTrust—Risk Assessment and Preview

One essential characteristic of technology assessment has traditionally been its prioritization of social consequences even when scrutinizing developments that seem to have little immediate im-pact on the experiences of individual citizens. The NanoTrust project, which has now been running for fourteen years, is a case in point. While the influence of nanotechnologies is constantly increasing far too little has been done to offer a reliable assessment of the associated environmental and health risks. Like other EU countries, Austria seeks to pursue nanotechnology policies that anticipate future developments. Against this backdrop, the NanoTrust project highlights the need for standards governing security in the workplace and the deployment of nanomaterial. Technology impact assessment has the potential to help foster social acceptance by promoting responsible forms of collaboration between producers, employees, and scientific and political decisionmakers.

An Exciting Past, an Exciting Future

The Institute of Technology Assessment looks back on an exciting couple of decades. Established in 1985 as a working group, it became first the Research Department for Technology Assessment (in 1987) and, finally, in 1994, a fully fledged institute (on the institute’s history (see Nentwich/Fuchs 2018). Its founding director, Ernst Braun, a physician, was succeeded by the economist Gunther Tichy. Since 2006, the legal scholar and science and technology expert Michael Nentwich has led the institute together with deputy Walter Peissl. It currently has 26 employees of whom twenty are academics. Given the constant need to assemble interdisciplinary teams to tackle newly emerging projects, the institute is not organized in permanent departments. Instead, it assembles project-specific teams on a case-by-case basis. At any given point in time, the institute is involved in roughly fifteen projects that are funded by a diverse range of grant-awarding and commissioning bodies including the Wissenschaftsfonds, corporations such as the Chamber of Labour, govern-ment departments, national and state legislatures and the EU.

Links:
ITA website: www.oeaw.ac.at/en/ita
On the institute’s history, see Nentwich/Fuchs 2018 (in German): epub.oeaw.ac.at/ita/ita-papers/30-Jahre-TA-in-%C3%96sterreich.pdf
ITA-Dossiers—A selection of two-page research re-ports: www.oeaw.ac.at/en/ita/publications/pu-blication-series/ita-dossiers
Foresight und Technikfolgenabschätzung: Be-richte über Zukunftsthemen für das österreichi-sche Parlament: www.parlament.gv.at/SERV/STUD/FTA/

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News Startseite_DE Covid-19 News OpenTA Denise Riedlinger Michael Nentwich
news-21079 Thu, 16 Dec 2021 13:27:31 +0100 Ways out of the pandemic https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/ways-out-of-the-pandemic ITA researcher Karen Kastenhofer asked experts around the world what needs to happen to make pandemics less likely in the future. In many ways, Corona exposes the inequalities of today's societies. A study at the Institute of Technology Assessment of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) has looked at the impact and significance of the current crisis for politics and society.

Experts worldwide were asked for their analysis of the social and political dimensions of the pandemic. Some 80 statements from Austria, Germany, Brazil, Canada, China and other countries show crucial links between human health and global patterns of consumption and production. "An interesting aspect about this project was to learn first hand about the global perspectives that scientists have developed beyond the crisis", says study author Karen Kastenhofer.

More info

The detailed project report with feedback from numerous countries can be read here.
Click here to go to the project page
For a short version on the project results: ITA Dossier "What opportunities does this pandemic offer" (PDF, 2 pages)

Karen Kastenhofer

is a science and technology researcher and holds a PhD in biology. Her field of work includes the reconstruction of different (techno)science cultures, the analysis of public controversies, and the discussion of possible governance models in the field of life sciences and biotechnologies. Kastenhofer is a research associate at the Institute of Technology Assessment of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW). For her full bio, click here.

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News Startseite_DE Covid-19 News OpenTA Karen Kastenhofer
news-20938 Thu, 25 Nov 2021 14:32:49 +0100 Monitoring the future – parliament receives new ITA report https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/monitoring-the-future-parliament-receives-new-ita-report Digital identity, reading in the 21st century, digital money, aging research - a total of ten new topics are available in depth as well as accessible infographics. The Austrian Parliament has been receiving external scientific support in the area of foresight and technology assessment since mid-2017. The biannual monitoring reports provide information on socio-technical developments and trends. The reports are prepared by the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology.

The November 2021 monitoring report now contains 130 future topics. Ten topics were newly included in this report, find them explained here again as infographics in a clear and brief way. Included are questions such as how a digital identity for all citizens could be realized in conformity with privacy principles, what prospects the digital euro planned by the European Central Bank would bring, what progress has been made on the path to longer life and what that could mean for our society, and whether we are losing the ability for deep reading and thus for deeper understanding.

In addition, there are updates on such topics as AI in Healthcare, European Resilience in Times of Crisis, Epigenetic Therapeutic Approaches, and From +Energy to ++Energy: On the Future of Building.

The infographics produced by the ITA have an additional advantage: they are e-accessible. Each graphic element is accompanied by a descriptive text. This means that image-reading devices or Braille lines for visually impaired people can also output the information.

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News Startseite_DE OpenTA Michael Nentwich
news-20935 Thu, 25 Nov 2021 12:12:47 +0100 Is bioeconomy as sustainable as we think? https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/is-bioeconomy-as-sustainable-as-we-think Coal, petroleum and plastic should soon be history. The goal of a bioeconomy is to find new ways to produce clothing, cosmetics and other consumer goods from natural materials. What does this vision of the future mean for Europe? Niklas Gudowsky and Ulrike Bechtold explore potentials and obstacles for a fossil-free future. What if clothes were no longer made from imported cotton, but from locally produced flax? Would this only have positive effects or would there also be less desirable consequences? What if there were plastic-eating bacteria? Bioeconomies have many faces, but only one goal: that of a Europe in which fossil fuels are replaced by renewable or sustainable raw materials.

"How bioeconomies are implemented is different for each country. For example, Poland focuses more on agricultural approaches, while Germany's national bio-economy strategy emphasizes digitization, biotechnology and genetic engineering. In Austria, on the other hand, the focus is more on wood utilization," stresses researcher Niklas Gudowsky from the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He and his colleague Ulrike Bechtold will analyze showcase projects in Europe on behalf of the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) and make suggestions for generally applicable approaches.

"For us in technology assessment, it is essential that we discuss future projects from different perspectives, because this is the only way to realize not only economically successful but also socially and environmentally compatible visions," says Gudowsky. Workshops will facilitate the exchange between practitioners and other stakeholders from politics, business and science.  The researchers aim to identify potential conflicts, hurdles and systemic risks of large-scale bioeconomic applications.

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News Startseite_DE Project news OpenTA Ulrike Bechtold Niklas Gudowsky
news-20873 Thu, 18 Nov 2021 14:30:19 +0100 Understanding AI? https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/understanding-ai We don't know how "artificial intelligence" works. How then can we assess whether it is harmless or dangerous? A new ITA study in cooperation with the Austrian Chamber of Labor asks how AI can be explained in an understandable way and how risks can be identified. Artificial intelligence applications are widely used. They not only offer us options, but often decide autonomously by presenting us with already optimized "solutions." Why didn't I get this mortgage? Why am I being included in the target group for this ad?  "The answers to questions such as this are simply not available to us as laypeople, because some factor triggers a chain reaction and the algorithm calculates a result based on that," says Titus Udrea, who researches this topic at the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

"Because AI systems are highly complex, we have only a very limited understanding of how they work and what factors ultimately influence the results and how. We therefore accept these gray areas as given. But how then can we distinguish iwhen and in what context AI systems are harmless or dangerous?", stresses Walter Peissl, deputy head of the ITA and coordinator of this study.

This short study, which the ITA is carrying out in cooperation with the Austrian Chamber of Labor, examines the extent to which AI systems can be designed to be comprehensible and transparent for consumers. It was triggered by the EU Commission's proposal for an EU-wide AI law, which is to provide a legal framework for the development and use of trustworthy AI systems.

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News Startseite_DE OpenTA
news-20683 Wed, 10 Nov 2021 11:26:51 +0100 Karen Kastenhofer: "The pandemic can open up new ways of doing things" https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/karen-kastenhofer-the-pandemic-can-open-up-new-ways-of-doing-things The pandemic has changed the way we live, but where do we go from here? Karen Kastenhofer looks at the numerous side effects of Corona that lie beyond medical research, and sees light in the darkness. Dr. Kastenhofer, you said at the beginning of the pandemic last spring that you also saw the crisis as an opportunity to learn, for example by finally discussing uncertainty openly instead of behind closed doors. How do you see that today?

Digitisation has experienced a boost, we have gotten to know ourselves in a new way, maybe we even had a better work-life balance. The debate about climate change is in full swing, so there are also very real possibilities for a new beginning. Through the Corona crisis, different scientific branches, ie medicine but also the social sciences, have been mobilised to ask new questions and to work together globally in a new way. The negative sides of the pandemic should not be forgotten, but we should not stop asking: Where do we go from here? What has gained in importance, what has become less important for me, and maybe also for the world.

Do you think that the human aspect also plays a role for researchers?

Definitely. I think it is very important to ask other researchers where they see potential and how we can better prepare for the future, because we have a different view of the last two years than, for example, political decision-makers or representatives of the economy. There are many approaches to doing this, including international surveys. In Canada, there is a lot of accompanying research on the social impact of the pandemic, and we at ITA also recently conducted a survey on this for the Austrian Academy of Sciences. This Friday we are invited to a conference in Australia, where we will again receive new input from this part of the world, because the situation there was and is very different from ours.

What kind of experiences have you had with the global exchange on Covid-19?

I was surprised by the different approaches to the internet: We might think that everyone uses it in the way we do, but that is not the case. In Africa, for example, we received no response at all to our email invitation to participate in the survey; in Asian countries it was sometimes difficult to collect personalised email addresses from scientists. On the other hand, we were able to get a lot of feedback from scientists in Brazil. We also wanted to get a picture of the situation on the ground, rather than a strictly research based feed-back: What is needed, what is missing? Where were positive experiences? Our survey was also an exchange of experience and opinions.

What are you looking forward to in the near future?

I hope that we can expect a more profound willingness to change the way we deal with climate change. The Corona pandemic has framed this issue anew –we all had to try out new things and figure out how to restructure our everyday life. Through this we experienced a lot and learned a lot. We also got an idea of what profound cuts in everyday life, as we would be facing with further climate changes, could actually look like. This period of our history brought a lot of suffering and a lot of loss, that's for sure. But there was also something else, a kind of positive wreckage, and we have to hold on to that now, otherwise we will have forgotten it again soon.

Karen Kastenhofer is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW).

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News Startseite_DE Covid-19 News OpenTA Karen Kastenhofer
news-20604 Wed, 27 Oct 2021 14:11:11 +0200 Zurück in die Zukunft: von der Telearbeit zum Homeoffice https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/zurueck-in-die-zukunft-von-der-telearbeit-zum-homeoffice-1 Zoom-Konferenzen, flexible Arbeitszeit, Homeoffice: Die Pandemie hat vieles möglich gemacht, was schon lange diskutiert wurde. Was wird bleiben? Und welche neuen Herausforderungen entstehen dadurch? Walter Peissl, Technikfolgenforscher an der ÖAW, betrachtet Aufgaben der Zukunft – und wie sie mit der Vergangenheit zusammenhängen. Bereits in den 1990er-Jahren gab es Homeoffice. Man nannte es nur anders: Telearbeit war eine neue Errungenschaft. Technologien wie ISDN hatten es möglich gemacht, digitale Daten über die Telefonleitung zu übertragen. Man sollte bequem von daheim oder in einem sogenannten Telehaus arbeiten können.

„Studien haben gezeigt, dass Menschen, die Telearbeit verrichteten, karrieretechnisch abgehängt wurden. Weil sie in den Unternehmen nicht präsent waren“, sagt der Sozialwissenschaftler Walter Peissl, stellvertretender Direktor des Instituts für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung (ITA) der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (ÖAW). Er schlägt im Gespräch eine Brücke von Zukunftsvisionen der 1990er-Jahre bis zu aktuellen Veränderungen durch die Pandemie.

Shared Spaces statt Telehäuser

Es ist schon seit Jahrzehnten von der Vier-Tage-Woche, Homeoffice und flexibler Arbeitszeit die Rede. Aber es brauchte eine Pandemie, um es umzusetzen?

Walter Peissl: Die Arbeitswelt ist träge. Wir haben bereits in den frühen 1990er-Jahren Studien zum Thema Telearbeit gemacht, einer frühen Form des Distant Working. Damals gab es sogenannte Telehäuser, das waren Orte, an denen Telearbeiter/innen zusammenkamen, die für unterschiedliche Firmen arbeiteten. Heute würde man von Shared Spaces sprechen. Die Idee dahinter entstand aus einem regionalpolitischen Gedanken: Man wollte die Regionen aufwerten und Menschen, die am Land leben nicht notwendigerweise zu Pendler/innen machen. Das war zukunftsweisend, denn wir merken nach eineinhalb Jahren Homeoffice alle, wie sehr uns soziale Kontakte und eine gewisse Struktur abgehen.

Beim freien Arbeiten sind die Grenzen zwischen privat und beruflich schwer zu ziehen?

Peissl: Wir verwenden digitale Medien nach 18 Monaten Pandemieerfahrung anders als vorher. Da saßen wir von einem Tag auf den anderen im Homeoffice und mussten erst herausfinden, welche Programme es überhaupt gibt, um zu kommunizieren. Wir haben schon in den 1990er-Jahren über das Bildtelefon gesprochen, selbst, wenn es damals technisch noch unausgereifter war. Da gab es Studien mit dem Ergebnis: Bildtelefon wird sich kaum durchsetzen. Das hing unter anderem mit der leitungsgebundenen Positionierung der Endgeräte zusammen. Die Erwartungshaltung an die Kommunikation war eine andere, man hatte eine Vorstellung, wo man den oder die Gesprächspartner/in antreffen würde – und daheim bin ich privat und kann im Bademantel herumsitzen. Das muss man nicht sehen. In den letzten 20 Jahren hat sich das völlig verkehrt. Mittlerweile kann ich nicht wissen, in welcher Situation ich meine/n Gesprächspartner/in erreiche, denn wir sind fast rund um die Uhr erreichbar, weil wir ja selbst bis tief in die Nacht im Web aktiv sind.

Mehrere elektronische Identitäten

Am Anfang waren die Menschen in Zoom-Konferenzen schlecht beleuchtet, man hat unaufgeräumte Wohnungen gesehen. Hat Covid-19 eine Professionalisierung in Sachen Digitalisierung gebracht?

Peissl: Sich in einer Videokonferenz ordentlich zu präsentieren, ist eine neue Kulturtechnik, die man erst lernen muss. Auch Firmen brauchten Zeit, bis sie ihren Mitarbeiter/innen einen standardisierten Hintergrund zur Verfügung stellten. Wir müssen gerade im digitalen Bereich lernen, nicht überall dieselbe Person zu sein, sondern wie im Analogen unterschiedliche Rollen zu verkörpern. Es ist nicht nur aus Datenschutzgründen ein großes Problem, wenn ich für alle Kanäle nur eine elektronische Identität habe.

Fehlt im Homeoffice der soziale Austausch?

Peissl: Wir haben schon damals vor der Euphorie der Telearbeit gewarnt. Studien haben gezeigt, dass Menschen, die in Telehäusern gearbeitet haben, karrieretechnisch abgehängt wurden. Weil sie nicht präsent waren. Sie konnten noch so gute Arbeit leisten, aber sie waren nicht bei den Gesprächen an der Kaffeemaschine dabei, nicht in der Kantine und konnten nicht an informellen Treffen nach der Arbeit teilnehmen. Diese sogenannten Softfacts sind das soziale Schmiermittel. Bei diesen Aktivitäten fließen wichtige Informationen.

Was haben wir durch die Pandemie gelernt?

Peissl: Nichts ist in Stein gemeißelt. Die Idee, dass man acht Stunden an einem Schreibtisch sitzen muss, um sein Geld zu verdienen, ist für viele widerlegt. Das wirft aber auch viele Fragen auf. Wie sieht es mit der Kostenübernahme und dem Datenschutz zu Hause aus? Wie funktioniert die Einbindung in die Organisation, wie kontrolliere ich Arbeitszeit? Wie wirkt Distant Working auf gewerkschaftliche Organisation und Vertretung? Ich denke aber, dass es in Zukunft ein flexibles Nebeneinander von Homeoffice und Präsenzarbeitszeit geben wird. Es ist sinnvoll, eine Mindestanwesenheitszeit zu vereinbaren und die restlichen zwei oder drei Tage der Woche flexibel zu gestalten.

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News Startseite_DE Covid-19 News
news-20568 Thu, 21 Oct 2021 14:02:24 +0200 What can Europe learn from the pandemic? https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/what-can-europe-learn-from-the-pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we look at science. In many European countries, scientific expertise suddenly moved into the spotlight. Expectations for scientific progress are higher than ever. A new report by international experts asks what politicians, citizens and decision-makers can learn from the discussions surrounding Covid-19. The pandemic is not over yet, as the latest global figures show. Will technologies like the green passport bring us the freedom we need? How much do different countries trust in science and technology? European technology assessment institutions have sought answers to all these questions in a report, which was presented at the conference "The COVID-19 pandemic - Drawing lessons to strengthen societies" on November 9.

The report was written by experts from the EPTA network, of which the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences is a member. At the conference, hosted by the Dutch Rathenau Institute, the authors discussed these questions with parliamentarians and political decision-makers. The report is now available online.

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News Startseite_DE Covid-19 News OpenTA
news-20474 Mon, 11 Oct 2021 15:23:20 +0200 „Reflecting on how we use public health data is crucial“ https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/reflecting-on-how-we-use-public-health-data-is-crucial Thanks to electronic health records, 96 percent of all insured persons in Austria are "transparent" patients. ITA-researcher Tanja Sinozic pleads for a comprehensive evaluation of the risks and consequences of this new development. There are many positive examples of innovations in patient data in the health sector. These include computerised administration in doctors' surgeries, electronic patient ID cards and digital exchange of diagnostic reports and images, which have often contributed to smoother workflows and services.

However, the continuous expansion of stored data, enabled functions and created connections raises some crucial questions: How is the data used? Who has access? What are the risks of adding new functions to the system, such as recording immunisations?

In her Dossier on ELGA, ITA researcher Tanja Sinozic points out the need to adapt technical systems to new challenges: "It is a matter of further developing systems in such a way that they are not only secure, but also take into account social needs such as free will, privacy and autonomy in the storage and retrieval of digitised patient information.”

 

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News Startseite_DE OpenTA
news-20435 Thu, 07 Oct 2021 13:06:42 +0200 Corona: Who advises whom and how? https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/corona-who-advises-whom-and-how Scientific expertise plays a central role in the Corona crisis. Where does politics stand in this? A new project investigates what challenges arise for policy advice in chronic crises. "The Corona pandemic has once again made clear how important scientific expertise can be for political decisions. But what requirements must it meet in order to be considered credible? And what role does it play when expertise itself is instrumentalised politically?" says Alexander Bogner, project leader of this KIRAS project and award-winning sociologist. At the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, he investigates the consequences of technology conflicts and the handling of expert knowledge.

The aim of his new project "Epistemic Security" is to examine the working methods and political functions of Corona-specific advisory bodies through an international comparison and to compare them with the Austrian model in order to analyse strengths and weaknesses.

Read more

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News Startseite_DE Covid-19 News OpenTA
news-19984 Tue, 03 Aug 2021 12:43:05 +0200 Deep fakes and online manipulation https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/deep-fakes-und-online-manipulationen Can we digitalise democracy? ITA expert Gloria Rose summarises the results of the 20th ITA Annual Conference collected by the ITA team in the new TATuP magazine. Does digital automatically mean "better"? What impact does digitalisation – do social media, e-democracy, artificial intelligence and co. – have on our decision-making process? How do they redefine us as a democratic society? International experts asked these and other questions at the 20th annual conference of the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, which took place in Vienna from 10 to 12 May.

"Free elections are manipulated by microtargeting and social bots; private platform giants determine the rules of the game on the net; disinhibited hate communication promotes the polarisation of society; unfiltered dissemination of fake news and deep fakes on the net play into the hands of populism", summarise the group of participating resarchers, among them Alexander Bogner, co-organiser of the conference, the downsides of digitalisation. Michael Decker from ITAS Karlsruhe, who is also head of the German-speaking Technology Assessment Network (NTA), which met in Vienna for its 9th annual meeting parallel to the conference, takes a similar view: When democracy is in danger, technology assessment has an even more enlightening role to play.

Keynote speaker Gerda Falkner (University of Vienna) emphasised the danger of "nudging", i.e. the targeted influencing of individuals based on collected data on the internet. Oxford professor and keynote speaker Philip Howard (Oxford Internet Institute) in his talk accused Big Tech of supporting the creation and spread of misinformation campaigns through junk news services and social media.

The report, published in TATuP - Journal of Technology Assessment in Theory and Practice, is based on proven ITA teamwork. In addition to Gloria Rose, contributors are Doris Allhutter, Ulrike Bechtold, Steffen Bettin, Alexander Bogner, Leo Capari, Johann Cas, André Gaszó, Niklas Gudowsky-Blatakes, Jaro Krieger-Lamina, Michael Ornetzeder, Felix Schaber, Tanja Sinozic-Martinez and Titus Udrea.

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News Startseite_DE Event news OpenTA
news-19904 Tue, 20 Jul 2021 14:38:16 +0200 Nanomaterials and Advanced Materials https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/nanomaterials-and-advanced-materials What are the risks and potentials of nanomaterials and advanced materials? Where and how are they used? The ITA project NanoTrust, which has been running since 2007 and is entering a new research phase, is investigating these and other questions. Nanomaterials and other innovative materials (advanced materials) offer interesting application possibilities and functions. They are therefore increasingly used in new products and in many industries. However, the possible undesirable consequences must also be carefully researched and evaluated. NanoTrust-Advanced, now the 6th phase of the long-term NanoTrust project that has been running since 2007, will examine the state of this development in Austria.

"In Europe, nanomaterials and advanced materials (NM&AM for short) are among the so-called "key enabling technologies" that should guarantee the competitiveness of the European economy for the coming decades. That's why policy advice is so important to us," emphasises project leader and security researcher André Gazsó from ITA. The NanoTrust team - in addition to Gazsó, ITA researchers Gloria Rose and Anna Pavlicek are involved - has been identifying possible research topics for the Austrian security research programme ("Nano-EHS"), for which the BMK ministry is responsible, since 2016.

NanoTrust-Advanced will initially investigate the safety and risk-relevant aspects. As before, the results will be published regularly in the established NanoTrust dossiers and in scientific journals. Key topics will be up for debate at the annual NanoTrust conference.

Read more on the NanoTrust project page

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News NanoTrust News Startseite_DE OpenTA Anna Pavlicek Denise Riedlinger André Gazsó
news-19754 Wed, 30 Jun 2021 13:20:32 +0200 Open Call: Digital Future(s) – Technology Assessment in and for a Changing World https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/5th-european-technology-assessment-conference In March 2022, the international TA community will meet in Karlsruhe to discuss the digital transformation and its challenges for policy, society, economy, environment, and research. The Keynotes will be held by Payal Arora (Erasmus University of Rotterdam), Doris Allhutter, (Institute of Technology Assessment – ITA, Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Catrin Misselhorn (University of Göttingen). Existing and potential impacts of digital technologies within societies and socio-technical systems (such as power grids, medical treatments, mobility, logistics and production) as well as on individuals, are the central focus of the conference. Overall, there is a broad range of digital technologies relevant for technology assessment (TA). Some are used “purely” digitally, such as artificial intelligence. Others include digital tools to enhance their effectiveness, e.g., robotics, 3-D-printing or sensor technologies.

The concerence will look at the impact these technologies have in certain fields, ranging from energy systems, to production and mobility or the agricultural sector. Questions asked are ie.how can algorithms be developed without endangering justice? And how can TA find ways to co-shape these digital technologies according to societal values such as fairness or trust?

The conference seeks to include interdisciplinary contributions from the TA community in both theoretical contributions on digital transformations as well as case studies from applied fields. Additionally, reflections on societal challenges of digital technologies focusing on institutional, policy, organizational and/or technological levels are welcome. The 2nd call for abstracts closes on 15 July 2021.

Thematic clusters and more information here

 

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News Starseite_EN Startseite_DE English
news-19753 Wed, 30 Jun 2021 11:53:00 +0200 Discussion: In crisis, is expertise enough? https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/diskussion-die-krise-nur-mit-expertise-bewaeltigen ITA researcher Alexander Bogner pleads for an interdisciplinary pandemic council - Barbara Prainsack: Science has become the topic of the day. Virologist Florian Krammer dared to "jump into the deep end". What is the significance of expert knowledge in the event of a crisis? How can it give direction to politics, and where does politics have to act independently? These and other questions were discussed on 28 June by Alexander Bogner (Senior Scientist at the Institute of Technology Assessment - ITA of the Austrian Academy of Sciences), Viola Priesemann (Physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organisation), Barbara Prainsack (Political Scientist at the University of Vienna) and Florian Krammer (Virologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai) at an ÖAW symposium on the topic: "What can the sciences achieve in the Corona pandemic?"

Juxtaposing the voices of politics, citizens and science

Alexander Bogner emphasised the multitude of perspectives different scientific disciplines bring to the table: "While experts from virology welcomed a next lockdown with a view to incidences, many economists warned against it. While medicine pointed to the contagiousness of even young people, educational research warned against further digital education," Bogner said. He therefore pleads for an interdisciplinary pandemic council. In addition to medicine, virology and complexity research, this council would also integrate the humanities and social sciences, e.g. technology assessment. There would not be one "scientifically correct" solution, but ultimately it would be a matter of weighing up interests and deciding on values, in which the voices of the citizens would also have to be heard.

Science became the topic of the day

For Florian Krammer, facing the public on an unprecedented scale was quite a challenge. The virologist, who is often quoted and visible in the media, was already used to communicating proactively as he emerged himself in US research practices. However, the pandemic brought a new challenge: High public exposure, little knowledge and extremely high public expectations in science.

Barbara Prainsack highlighted the differences in crisis management. While most people listened to science more than ever, there was a large mass that did not accept expert knowledge. After the pandemic, there was therefore "a new relationship between the public, science and politics. [...] Discussions about science have become discussions about world views," says Prainsack.

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News Startseite_DE Covid-19 News OpenTA Alexander Bogner
news-19687 Wed, 23 Jun 2021 13:29:31 +0200 From genetic engineering to algorithms https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/von-gentechnik-zu-algorithmen What role does technology assessment play in the development and use of new technology? How relevant is it for political decisions in Austria? The ITA’s Michael Nentwich and Daniela Fuchs take a look at three decades of work and the highlights of technology assessment in Austria. Whether it is questions around neuro-enhancement, nanotechnologies or the effects of digitalisation on our private and working lives - today it is impossible to imagine Austria's political and scientific landscape without technology assessment (TA). But this was not always the case.

In their article "Three decades of institutionalised TA in Austria: The Institute of Technology Assessment of the Austrian Academy of Sciences", Daniela Fuchs, human biologist and historian, and ITA Director Michael Nentwich describe the ups and downs of TA since the 1980s: From the founding of a research group in 1984 to the advisory role for parliament that the ITA has taken on together with the AIT - Austrian Institute of Technology since 2017. It is currently advising Parliament on the consequences of a large-scale blackout and on cybersecurity issues.

Social implications of technologies at center stage

"In Austria, technology assessment is closely linked to the founding and development of the ITA," Michael Nentwich emphasises. In 1987, the habilitated science and technology researcher joined the then “TA working group”, today he is the current head of the ITA, which was transformed into an institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 1994. "Our goal is to research the social, economic and environmental consequences of new technologies. It is also about advising policy-makers to ensure that new technologies are applied in our society in such a way that fundamental principles such as environmental protection, health protection at the workplace and data protection are being considered", says Nentwich.

The road to recognition

In their article, Fuchs and Nentwich tell tales of past conflicts and enthusiastic beginnings of the ITA in Austria: from its founding by Ernst Braun, to the expansion of interdisciplinary competence in the 1990s, to the impending end for technology assessment in the course of a major restructuring of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. They also take an honest and thoroughly critical look at the ITA's achievements and describe the long road which finally led to a stable cooperation with the Austrian Parliament.

"How technology and society interact and influence each other, how technologies affect our lives, these questions will occupy us for a long time to come. An essential aspect of TA is that the expertise comes from a team of different disciplines. We have biologists, engineers, sociologists of technology and economists working side by side. This allows us to take a unique perspective that we believe is worth communicating to policy makers and the public."

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News Startseite_DE OpenTA TechnoWissenschaften Daniela Fuchs Michael Nentwich
news-19679 Wed, 23 Jun 2021 11:22:35 +0200 The challenges of co-creation https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/detail/news/the-challenges-of-co-creation How can STEM professions move away from traditional gender images? Ulrike Bechtold looks for answers in her new ITA dossier. Traditional gender definitions are breaking down, professional groups are reflecting on their self-image - diversity and inclusion are increasingly moving into our consciousness. In any case, gender roles and identities play a significant role in determining our social behavior: How we talk, how we assert ourselves, who we feel we belong to.

How are these social changes reflected in the development of new technologies?  "Taking diversity into account in participatory processes - that is, processes involving different actors - around technology development is challenging," emphasizes Ulrike Bechtold, a technology researcher at the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. "We have to ask ourselves: how do we achieve a balance of social identities? This cannot be achieved through quota regulations alone. Also because in the STEM research field, central values and predispositions are mostly still based on a traditional gender concept."

The EU project GoNano, in which Bechtold was involved along with human biologist Daniela Fuchs and philosopher Vera Borrmann, tried to find answers to these questions. Bechtold has summarized the results in the new ITA dossier

Click here for the dossier "Co-creation - a challenging process".

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News Startseite_DE OpenTA Ulrike Bechtold