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Technology Assessment(TA) in Japan: Experiences and Future Prospects for Institutionalization. Tatsujiro Suzuki, Go Yoshizawa, Hideaki Shiroyama I2TA (Innovation and Institutionalization of Technology Assessment in Japan) Project Graduate School of Public Policy

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Technology assessment ta in japan experiences and future prospects for institutionalization

Technology Assessment(TA) in Japan: Experiences and Future Prospects for Institutionalization

Tatsujiro Suzuki, Go Yoshizawa, Hideaki Shiroyama

I2TA (Innovation and Institutionalization of Technology Assessment in Japan) Project

Graduate School of Public Policy

The University of Tokyo

This research project is sponsored by Research Institute for Science and Technology for Society (RISTEX), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). The project is coordinated by Science, Technology and Public Policy (SciTePP) Research Unit, Graduate School of Public Policy (GRASPP), the University of Tokyo

Objective of the project
Objective of the Project Prospects for Institutionalization

  • To review and analyze the past and current practice of technology assessment(TA), and identify the barriers of institutionalization of TA in Japan.

  • To develop an innovative TA technique applying the Problem Structuring Method and test its effectiveness through implementing TA for nanotechnologies.

  • To propose innovative approaches to, as well as techniques for, the TA that is appropriate for the 21st century and a recommendation for their institutionalization in Japan.

Technology assessment ta in japan experiences and future prospects for institutionalization

Research Approach Prospects for Institutionalization

(2)Development of an innovative TA methodology

(1)Historical Analysis of so-called “TA” activities in Japan

New methodology

(3) Implementation of TA: Dealing with Nanotechnologies

Conditions for “institutionalizing TA” in Japan

We are Here!!

Lessons learned from Implementation of TA

(4)Recommendations for new TA methodologies and Institutionalization of TA in Japan

Functions of ta
Functions of TA Prospects for Institutionalization

Present Emerging Issues and Possible options to deal with them

Provide “Bird-view” of broad societal

Impact of Technology

Have dialogue and deliberation with diversified experts stakeholders, and citizens

Ta activities objectives and participants

Experts Prospects for Institutionalization

TA Activities: Objectives and Participants

Analyze and present problems and issues

Present future options and



Issue conceptualisation


Deliberate and explore

possible issues

Deliberate possible options

and solutions


Ta processes
TA Processes Prospects for Institutionalization





Agenda Setting


  • Communication with stakeholders

  • Publication

  • Link with social decision

  • Sharing of knowledge

  • Selection of Technology

  • Problem(issue) definition

  • Identifying Stakeholders

  • Scoping

  • Identifying Options

  • Assessments

  • Present and compare possible options

  • Recommendations

I2ta pilot studies summary
I2TA Pilot Studies: Summary Prospects for Institutionalization

0. MWCNT mini-TA project (Type B-C)

  • Limited scope with quick output

  • Nano DDS Group (type B)

    • “What are the issues associated with introduction of nano-DDS?”

    • 3 panels (experts/stakeholders) will write reports

  • Food Nanotechnology (type B-C)

    • “How to disclose and disseminate information on food nanotechnologies?”

    • Inventory of products, WS with consumer advisors

  • Nano-Green (Eco-Housing) (type A)

    • “What are potential needs of future housing and how can nanotechnologies meet such needs?”

    • “Needs meet Seeds” WS with public/experts

  • Ta activities i2ta pilot projects

    Experts Prospects for Institutionalization

    TA Activities: I2TA pilot projects


    Nano DDS


    Issue conceptualisation



    Food Nanotech


    Lessons experiences from pilot ta projects
    Lessons/Experiences from Pilot TA Projects Prospects for Institutionalization

    • Agenda Setting is probably the most difficult task (without having a specific client)

      • “Issues” in “food nanotech” project have been redefined

    • Choosing “addressee” is another important task

      • Hard to write a report without knowing “addressee”

    • Need independent oversight over the process

      • Established both internal/external auditors(advisors)

      • How to establish “legitimacy” of TA?

    • Outreach activities need to be emphasized more

      • Create new leaflet, Newsletter, and new web-site

    • Secure future funding is essential to keep expertise

      • Applied for government competitive funding

    Historical lessons summary
    Historical Lessons :Summary Prospects for Institutionalization

    • Institutional Problem:

      • Ad-hoc assessments (not institutionalized, not named as TA)

      • Sectionalism hindered TA practice with comprehensive views

      • Public officers attempted to establish a TA institution in the Diet, but failed by a disconnection between stakeholders’ incentives.

    • Methodological problem – “system” approach was dominant.

      • Often confused TA with technology foresight and R&D evaluation

      • Sticking to a hard systems (‘total system’) approach made it difficult to obtain significant outcome

      • Lack of efforts in involving wider stakeholders

    • Process problem –ineffective link with policy process.

      • Lack of interests in careful agenda setting and options

      • High quality but not well linked with policy making process

      • Not carefully designed how the result is used.

    Key questions to be answered
    KEY QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED Prospects for Institutionalization

    • How do you set the agenda (theme)?

    • Who will provide funding (stably)?

    • Who will conduct TA(who are the authors)?

    • How to establish legitimacy/independence?

    • How to enhance effectiveness of TA (link with social decision)?

    • What kind of institutional arrangements should work best?

    Organizational variations in us europe
    Organizational Variations in US/Europe Prospects for Institutionalization

    • Parliament – OTA: US, POST: UK, OPECST: France, TAB: German, viWTA: Flemish, STOA: European Parliament

      cf. Distinguishing from the parliamentary library service

    • Administrative body – DBT: Denmark

    • Private sectors

      (1) Academy of Sciences such as the NRC: US, the Rathenau Institute: Netherlands, TA-SWISS, ITA in Austria

      (2) Public interest groups such as the Woodrow Wilson Center: US

      (3) Universities such as the Center for Nanotechnology in Society in Arizona State University

      (4) Advocacy groups

      (5) Collaboration between private firms and NGOs – Ex. Environmental Defense - DuPont Nano Partnership Program

    Possible institutional options in japan
    Possible Institutional Options in Japan Prospects for Institutionalization

    • Government

      • Parliamentary Organization (including Diet library)

      • Governmental Agency (CSTP or Sector Ministries)

      • Local Governments

    • Quasi-Government or

      • Japan Science Technology Agency (RISTEX, etc.)

    • Independent Agency

      • SCJ (Science Council of Japan)

    • Non-governmental Institutions

      • University or academic institution

      • Business Association

      • NGO

      • Possibility of international TA?- Collaboration with international framework

    • Network of fragmented TA

    Third generation 3g of ta based on distributed governance
    Third Generation (3G) of TA?- Based on distributed governance

    • First Generation(70s-80s): US-OTA model

      • Parliamentary-centered

      • Expert panel with variety of stakeholders

      • Policy oriented, highly technical, authored by OTA

      • Early Warning to Strategic Assessment

    • Second Generation: (90s~)EU-model

      • Variety of institutional arrangements (but still associated with parliament and governments)

      • Public participation with broader agenda-setting TA (authored by citizen panel) with democratic process

      • Precautionary assessment to Constructive TA

    Third generation 3g of ta
    Third Generation (3G) of TA? governance

    • Third Generation: (2000~?) already emerging....

      • “Distributed Governance” with collective knowledge

        • Not necessarily associated with government institutions

        • To meet rapidly changing societal and technological change

        • Need both “real-time” as well as “constructive” TA with broad inputs

      • New digital technologies may facilitates interaction of variety of “intermediate actors” (business, NGOs, consumer groups, local governments etc.)

    Comparison of 1 st 2 nd and 3g ta
    Comparison of 1 governancest, 2nd, and 3G TA

    Source: G. Yoshizawa,” Third Generation of Technology Assessment (3G-TA): Expectations for Japanese activities” (2009)

    Ta activities objectives and participants1

    Experts governance

    TA Activities: Objectives and Participants

    3 G TA

    1 G TA

    2 G TA


    Issue conceptualisation


    3 G TA

    2 G TA


    Possible 3g ta model
    Possible 3G TA model? governance

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    Why 3g fits with japan or anywhere else
    Why 3G fits with Japan (or anywhere else)? governance

    • 3G TA provides new institutional options

      • Not only governmental/parliamentary institutions, 3G TA can diversify institutional options

    • Collaborative nature of 3G TA may fit with Japan’s social and political culture

      • Less confrontational, mutually constructive nature

      • “hard system” plus “soft system”

    • Effective inputs into social decision making

      • Feedback mechanism for “agenda setting” and “social decision” with a help from ICT

    Future issues
    Future Issues governance

    • How to design the process under diversified societal needs?

      • The process design for agenda setting needs to be further studied

    • How to secure stable funding?

      • 3G TA may provide diversified funding opportunities, but still need public/stable funding

    • How to secure the “independent” characteristics of TA institution?

      • How to design “independent” and “unbiased” TA institution?

      • What is the expertise of TA (with collective and collaborative knowledge base)? How to secure the human resource?

    • How to enhance impact of outreach activities?

      • Need to be recognized well with high prestige

      • Need to work with newly emerging policy making process in Japan

    Sponsors governance

    • Closely corresponding to the organizational affiliation

    • TA organizations set in the private sector have various financial resources

    • The Netherlands, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science

    • The U.S. 21st Century Nanotechnology R&D Act of 2003

    • NRC in the US is also sponsored mainly by the federal government

    • Wilson Center in the US has one third of their fund coming from the Congress

    Member of the steering committee
    Member of the Steering Committee governance

    • Members of parliament (MPs) only: OTA, OPECST, German committee in charge of TAB, and STOA

    • MPs and external experts: POST, viWTA

    • Only external experts: the Rathenau Institute, DBT, TA-SWISS and ITA

    Implementing body
    Implementing body governance

    • MPs undertake TA exercises by themselves: OPECST

    • Staff in TA organizations conducts TA and takes authorship of TA reports: OTA, POST, Rathenau and ITA

    • External experts in the committee take authorship of TA reports: NRC

      Cf. DBT: Various experts and stakeholders participating in the cross disciplinary working groups write report by themselves

    • Contracting out to external organizations: STOA, German TAB

    Addressee governance

    • Parliament: OTA, POST, OPECST, TAB

    • Administrative agency: the early days of the Netherlands Office of Technology Assessment (NOTA)

      cf. NOTA (then Rathenau) started reporting to the parliament as well - DBT of Denmark, ITA of Austria

    • Citizens and general public: the Rathenau Institute in 1994, DBT, viWTA

    Operational issues
    Operational issues governance

    • Eyes on the political structure and culture: different attitudes toward “independence” : OTA (Congressional control) vs. Academy of Sciences (scientific independence) vs. DBT (political balance)

    • Process of the introduction: the utilization of Experimental periods and events

    • TA Methods: from early warning to participation

      cf. Stakeholders involvement (OTA, Rathenau) vs. joint fact finding (DBT)

    • TA Practitioners’ Competence and Educational Support for Them – networking capacity

      cf. AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship

    • Quality control – internal/ open process vs. peer reviews