The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing balancing act for politicians and policy makers. Balancing between firm decision-making on the one hand and taking the time to properly reflect on the available evidence on the other hand. And all of that with a fair amount of uncertainty on the effect of the measures that have far-reaching consequences for citizens. Citizens who voice their opinions, wishing to steer the course of action.

Under those circumstances, how do politicians and policy makers keep a cool head, weighing different interests and doing justice to important societal values shared globally?

EPTA Report 2021 - Technology assessment and decision making under scientific uncertainty - lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic

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The contributing members each provided their unique perspectives on the pivotal role of science and technology in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, with the help of a common template. The country reports were written in the summer of 2021 (July, August and September).

The COVID-19 pandemic was an eminent issue for members of the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) network, whose role it is to inform politicians and policy makers on the possible impact of science, technology and innovation on societies and their citizens. This network also follows the national public debates on science and technology and advises on how citizens can best be included in those debates.

How did EPTA institutes inform parliaments and societies during the COVID-19 pandemic? How did their activities pan out in the total array of advice given to governments and parliaments? What lessons can be drawn from the way policymaking around science and technology was done during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The EPTA network undertook a collaborative action to give answers to these questions. This joint report is the result of that action, and touches on issues of scientific uncertainty, political transparency, citizen participation and democratisation. It also points at the need for more adaptable and dynamic governance structures that incorporate citizens’ rights and privacy.

Next to that, the network formulates points of attention for decision-making about science and technology in a world after COVID-19. These points address the dependencies and vulnerabilities of complex sociotechnical infrastructures, the challenge of responsible digitization of work, education and health, and the need for transnational collaboration.

The outcomes of this report can be a starting point to improve interactions between science and technology, governments, politicians and society, including the role of technology assessment therein, in order to build more resilient societies and face future crises.


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