Pol[ITA] - Policy Advise in TA

Practices and paradigms of policy advice in TA

The context of scientific policy advice in general and in TA in particular has changed significantly over the past decades. Concepts such as “post-normal science”, “responsible research and innovation” or “open innovation” refer to fundamental shifts in the configuration of science-policy-society relations. These shifts are reflected in a diversification as well as a professionalization of our institute's advisory practices, such as an expansion towards vision search and vision assessment activities, an increasing importance of participatory approaches, and an extension of potential addressees and modes of interaction.

The objective of this project was to comprehensively address the practice of policy advice at ITA, its diversity and change over time. More specifically, we aimed at reconstructing and reflecting on prevalent roles and implicit paradigms shaping our advisory practice. Key questions included: How do implicit paradigms of science-policy interactions impact on TA’s advisory practice? What roles do TA practitioners realise in their interaction with science, publics, administration and politics? Do different modes of science-based policy advice stabilise along specific actor constellations, technological themes or issues? What can we learn from these results for the collective development of quality criteria, standards and optimal settings for acquiring the necessary skills?

To answer these questions, we adopted a multi-disciplinary, empirically grounded approach. Our empirical basis consisted of the experiences and perspectives of ITA’s current practitioners and the advisory projects’ attributes completed at ITA during the past decades. Methodically we started with a literature review and with mapping the institute’s advisory activities via a comprehensive project database. A subsequent series of interviews with all of ITA’s practitioners explores individual motivations, perspectives and experiences, thus allowing for the reconstruction of the collective role repertoire present at ITA. With a further, project-centred series of interviews with ITA staff as well as clients, collaborators and addressees, we reconstructed the project constellations of four lines of advisory projects. All findings were presented to and validated and discussed by the whole ITA team within two one-day workshops and a series of seminars. Initial project outline, preliminary findings and final outcome were presented to the institute’s scientific advisory board.

The results of Pol[ITA] are now being published in international, peer reviewed journals.

Pallas Athene Fountain infront of the Austrian Parlament (Photo: Parliament Head Office/Bernhard Zofall)