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Assessing Technology in a Global Context Clinton Andrews Past President IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (and Rutgers University) Technology Assessment Definition : Investigate likely impacts of technology choices

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Assessing technology in a global context l.jpg

Assessing Technology in a Global Context

Clinton Andrews

Past President

IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology

(and Rutgers University)

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Technology Assessment

  • Definition: Investigate likely impacts of technology choices

  • Purpose: Avoid unintended negative consequences, plan transitions

  • Conducted by: Government, Industry, NGOs, Academia

  • Methodology: Analytic deliberation with many variations

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Example: Hydrogen Economy

Ballard 2004

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Hydrogen cost ($/kg)













  • GEA = Gasoline Efficiency Adjusted – scaled to hybrid vehicle efficiency

NRC 2004

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Kilograms of carbon per kg of hydrogen

NRC 2004

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Example: Hydrogen Economy

  • Likely impacts: reduce air pollution, diversify energy mix

  • Unintended consequences: increase global warming & suburban sprawl

  • Conducted by: NRC, DOE, APS, EPRI, EU

  • Methodology: Technology roadmaps, expert deliberations, advocacy science

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Technology Assessment: Origins

  • Marketing studies for new products

  • Governmental planning for security, economic development investments

  • 3rd party evaluations of business and governmental choices

  • Distinct national trajectories

  • Global approach?

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U.S. Experience

  • Laissez-faire capitalism: fix unintended consequences after the fact

  • Wartime technology planning (Civil War, WW I, WW II, Cold War): systems analysis

  • 1960s: apply systems analysis widely in government, critical science movement, environmental regulation

  • 1972 - 1995: Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, academic specialty

  • 1995 - today: pluralism, NRC, IEEE et al

Andrews 2002

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European Experience

  • Mixed economies: efforts to plan

  • Military technology planning: long history

  • Post WW II: social democracies, focus on labor stability, reconstruction

  • 1990s: “baby” OTAs (esp. UK, Denmark, Netherlands)

  • Today: participatory assessments, public education, Europeanization of TA

Guston & Sarewitz 2002

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Japanese Experience

  • Mixed economy, military planning

  • Post WW II: economic planning for reconstruction & export-led growth

  • 1970s: strong response to energy crisis

  • 1980s: MITI becomes world model for strategic economic planning & TA

  • Today: sophisticated industry-government collaboration on global technology roadmaps

  • Question: any public participation?

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Developing Countries’ Experience

  • Indigenous appropriate technology: Chinese biogas, Indian Enfields, Brazilian ethanol

  • Advice from bilateral & multilateral institutions: ADB, IBRD, USAID, etc.

  • Multinational corporations: from exploitation to mutual benefit in some cases

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Nations Vary Greatly

  • Preferences: traditional/progressive, green/brown, …

  • Capabilities: large/small, rich/poor, …

  • Circumstances: producer/consumer, urban/rural, …

  • Technology assessment needs and practices must also vary widely

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Need for a Global Approach

  • Global economic integration: in capital markets, product markets, factor markets

  • Global unintended consequences: climate change, biodiversity loss, resource competition

  • But when to do technology assessment in a global context?

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Choosing When to Globalize

  • Centralize responsibilities to take advantage of scale economies, enforce widespread norms, pool risks, reduce spillovers

  • Decentralize responsibilities to allow experimentation, match local circumstances, encourage diverse civic cultures

  • Not all technology assessments should adopt a global view

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National-Global Tensions

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National-Global Tensions


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Resolving National-Global Tensions #1: Allocation Logic

  • If national interest & scope, then nation does national-level technology assessment

  • If global interest and national scope, then subsidize national-level assessment

  • If globally-relevant public-good or pre-competitive technology, then jointly do global-level assessment

  • Else if commercial technology, then nations or corporations do global-level assessments

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Resolving National-Global Tensions #2: Institutional Models

  • Need a coordinating institution to assign assessment responsibilities-- funding?-- expertise?-- consensus on public-good distinctions?

  • Institutional models:-- federation: European Commission -- multilateral agreement: IPCC -- bilateral assistance: USAID -- Nongovernmental collaboration: IEEE 

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Resolving Science-Politics Tensions

  • Manage boundaries between science and action so as to enhance salience, credibility, legitimacy of findings.

  • Requires active communication between experts and decision makers

  • Requires better translation across boundaries, use of ‘boundary objects’

  • Requires active mediation of conflicts, dual accountability

Cash et al 2003

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Resolving Public-Private Tensions

  • Technology assessment = public good

  • Marketplace under-provides it, so government must step in

  • But firms know the most, so play key role

  • Create balanced participation, enhance salience, credibility, legitimacy

  • Funding: “1% for ethics”, business tax, government sponsorship

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Adversarial Decision Making

Decision Maker

Policy Position A

Policy Position B

Supporting Science A

Supporting Science B

Stakeholder A

Stakeholder B

Andrews 2002

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Conventional Advising

Decision Maker


Policy Position A

Policy Position B

Supporting Science A

Supporting Science B

Stakeholder A

Stakeholder B

Andrews 2002

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Joint Fact Finding

Decision Makers

Policy Position BC

Policy Position AC

Stakeholder A

Stakeholder B

Experts A and B

Policy Position B

Policy Position A

Supporting Science B

Supporting Science A

Stakeholder A

Stakeholder B

Andrews 2002

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  • Global integration changes context of TA

  • Need to revise “who” and “how” of TA

  • Satisfy criteria of salience, credibility, legitimacy--not just technical adequacy

  • Question: Role for IEEE? Idea: IEEE Transactions on Technology Assessment

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For more information


  • [email protected]


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  • Andrews, C.J. Humble Analysis: The Practice of Joint fact Finding (Praeger, 2002) at

  • Ballard Co. website, 2004 at

  • Cash, D.W., W.C. Clark, F. Alcock, N.M. Dickson, N. Eckley, D.H. Guston, J. Jager and R.B. Mitchell, “Knowledge systems for sustainable development,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100(14): 8086-8091 (July 8, 2003).

  • Guston, D.H., and D. Sarewitz, “Real-time technology assessment,” Technology in Society 24:93-109 (2002).

  • National Research Council, Committee on Alternatives and Strategies for Future Hydrogen Production and Use, The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2004.

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