Comparative Table of Parliamentary TA Institutions
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT - SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY OPTIONS ASSESSMENT
Many of the issues coming before the European Parliament (EP) nowadays
have a scientific or technological dimension to them. Technological and
scientific advances lie at the heart of economic growth, and it is
necessary to understand the impact of these technologies and how to
best support scientific and technological innovation.
In this context, there is a growing need for legislators and
policy-makers at national and European level to rely on independent,
impartial and accessible information about developments in science and
technology (S&T), the opportunities they offer, but also the risks
they entail and their ethical implications.
The launch of STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment), in
1987, was the European ParliamentÂ´s response to this need.
The main components of the STOAÂ´s mission are (STOA Rules, Article 1):
- providing Parliament’s committees
and other parliamentary bodies concerned with independent, high-quality and
scientifically impartial studies and information for the assessment of the
impact of possibly introducing or promoting new technologies and identifying, from the
technological point of view, the options for the best courses of action to
- organising forums in which
politicians and representatives of scientific communities or organisations and
of society as a whole discuss and compare scientific and technological
developments of political relevance to civil society;
- supporting and coordinating
initiatives to strengthen parliamentary technology assessment activities in the
Member States of the European Union, including creating or enhancing
parliamentary technology assessment capacities in European countries,
especially new Member States.
Brief STOA history
In October 1985, the EP adopted a report "on
the establishment of a European Parliament Office for Scientific and
Technological Option Assessment", which stressed "the particular needs of the
standing committees and political groups in technical and political
decision-making, which can be met only by an autonomous technology assessment
office" and proposed "that a European Parliament office for scientific and
technological option assessment should be set up ... to coordinate assessment
work and award external contracts in support of its work".
a decision by the EP Bureau in June
1986, STOA was officially launched in March 1987 as an 18-month pilot
at the end of which, in September 1988, the EP Bureau authorised STOA
continue its work on a permanent basis, on condition that it make its
available to all standing parliamentary committees. As such, STOA
its 20 years of existence in 2007 with a major exhibition ("The STOA
during the EP plenary session in Strasbourg in June of that year. In
2012 STOA marked its 25th anniversary with a very successful event on
the discovery of the scalar boson predicted by R. Brout, F. Englert and
P.Higgs, followed by a festive reception attended by all past STOA
activities were initially governed by a
series of Bureau Decisions, which were assembled in the Consolidated
Rules of Procedure of STOA and approved by the EP Bureau on 25 October
13 January 2003, the EP Bureau adopted STOA Rules defining the nature
describing STOA bodies and setting the framework conditions for STOA
These rules were in force until the end of the 1999–2004
legislative period, whereupon the new STOA Rules, approved by the EP
Bureau on 19 April 2004, entered into force.
2009, the STOA Rules were further modified,
based on proposals submitted by the EP Vice-President responsible for
The main purpose of these modifications was to add a European dimension
mission and include an additional criterion for selecting STOA projects
alignment with the priorities defined by the STOA Panel, as well as to
stipulate a second Vice-Chairman and simplify certain procedures. In
2015 the Rules were modified once again to account for the increase in
STOA membership: from 15 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs)
representing six EP Committees, to 24 Members from eight Committees.
The STOA Panel, which is an integral part of
Parliament´s structure, is politically responsible for STOA´s work. It
comprises 24 members with the right to vote:
The members of the STOA Panel are appointed for a renewable
two-and-a-half-year period. The Panel is reconstituted in the beginning
and in the middle of each parliamentary term, following the appointment
of its members by the eight committees. Monthly Panel meetings are held in Strasbourg and can be followed via webstreaming.
- the Vice-President of Parliament with responsibility for STOA;
- 6 members appointed by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy;
- 3 members appointed by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs;
- 3 members appointed by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety;
- 3 members appointed by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection;
- 3 members appointed by the Committee on Transport and Tourism;
- 3 members appointed by the Committee on Agriculture;
- 1 member appointed by the Committee on Legal Affairs;
- 1 member appointed by the Committee on Culture and Education.
The STOA Bureau oversees the running of the STOA activities and
prepares the Panel meetings. The STOA Panel in turn elects three
members of the Bureau: the Chair and two Vice-Chairs. The
Vice-President of the European Parliament responsible for STOA is ex officio also a member of the STOA Bureau.
STOA´s operational responsibilities are with the STOA
Secretariat, which is part the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) within
Directorate C (Impact Assessment and European Added Value) of the EP's
Directorate-General for Parliamentary Research Services (EPRS). In
addition to the STOA Secretariat, the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA)
comprises the Scientific Foresight Service, created in 2014.
Proposals for executing technology assessment (TA) and scientific
foresight (SF) projects and organising events with a scientific and/or
technological character are submitted by the
various parliamentary committees and by individual MEPs and are
discussed by the STOA Panel, in view of
their adoption, usually based on a recommendation of the STOA Bureau.
The proposals are approved by the STOA Panel on the basis of the
following criteria (STOA Rules, Article 6):
STOA remains sovereign in the final choice of subjects and the
elaboration of the project specifications. In doing this, the Panel may
accept, modify, merge or reject proposals submitted by committees or
- the relevance of the subject to ParliamentÂ´s work;
- the scientific and technological interest of the proposal;
- the strategic importance of the proposal and its alignment with priorities defined by the STOA Panel; and
- the availability of scientific evidence covering the same subject.
WORK PROCEDURES & METHODS
STOA's mission is fulfilled with generally recognized success through:
The STOA Secretariat executes the decisions of the Panel with the
assistance of external contractors who are selected based on the
expertise needed by STOA and the financial regulation of the EU
- Projects ranging over several S&T areas and executed by
eminent scientific institutions, which provide the MEPs and the
parliamentary committees with insights into medium to long-term,
complex interdisciplinary issues related to the impact of S&T
developments on society. The methodology traditionally applied to STOA
studies has been that of Technology Assessment. STOA has recently expanded its science-advice toolkit to include an internally developed Scientific Foresight approach for the European Parliament.
Several projects, in the fields of Information and Communication
Technologies (ICT), sustainable energy sources and future energy
scenarios, alternative transport technologies and the future of
European transport, sustainable management of natural resources,
converging technologies and human enhancement, nanotechnology, life
sciences for human well-being and intellectual property rights, were
concluded and the respective studies were published in recent years.
- Events, such as conferences, seminars and workshops organised by
STOA, alone or in collaboration with other organisations, fostering a
closer interaction between policy-makers, scientists and society in its
Among these, the Annual Lecture, the high-level STOA annual event, is
an opportunity for MEPs and other guests to listen to renowned
scientists and experts, often Nobel Prize winners, speaking on topics
of political relevance. For instance, in 2009 the event hosted Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. The 2012
edition of the Annual Lecture featured Peter Higgs and Francois
Englert, laureates of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics, speaking about
recent developments in Elementary Particle Physics at CERN. Ismail
Serageldin, Director of the Library of Alexandria and former World Bank
Vice-President for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable
Development, Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European
Environment Agency, and Monica Kircher, CEO of Infineon Technologies
Austria AG, spoke in 2013 on ˜Sustaining sustainability: making economics work for the global environment. In 2014 Thomas Sdhof, Nobel Prize in Medicine 2013, spoke about his research on the brain. The 2015
event entitled â€˜A discovery tour in the world of
quantum optics featured Serge Haroche, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize
- Enhancing mutual understanding and establishing long-term cooperation between scientists and policy-makers by organising the MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme.
STOA is currently running the 5th edition of this project. It will be
launched on 8 November 2016 during a 'Science Meets Parliaments' event
STOA co-organises with the European Commissions' Joint Research Centre
- The participation of STOA, beyond the premises of the EP, in key
events at the European and global level, such as the EuroScience Open
Forum (ESOF), the World Science Forum (WSF), the Science and Technology
in Society (STS) forum in Kyoto, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
and BioVision the World Life Sciences Forum in Lyon.
- The active role STOA has continued to play within the European
Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) network, contributing to the
consolidation and further development of Parliamentary Technology
Assessment (PTA), as part of a democratic governance culture.
STOA's external contractors can be research institutes, universities,
laboratories, consultancies or individual researchers contracted to
help prepare specific projects. In 2014 STOA signed new framework
contracts with expert consortia covering the delivery of technological
and scientific expertise in a broad range of areas, valid until 2018.
Once the projects are completed, but also when important interim
results are obtained or when current events render some subjects
politically interesting, STOA approaches the relevant committees and
organises presentations by the experts. Similar presentations are also
regularly organised in the context of the STOA Panel meetings.
The work of STOA is focused on the five thematic priority areas:
1. Eco-efficient transport and modern energy solutions;
2. Sustainable management of natural resources;
3. Potentials and challenges of the Internet;
4. Health and new technologies in the life sciences;
5. Science policy, communication and global networking.
Projects were recently completed on the following subjects:
Apart from workshops organised in the context of projects, STOA has
recently organised workshops on such subjects as the following:
The work and products of STOA are primarily intended to aid MEPs in
their decision-making. The staff of the EP and other European
institutions may find STOA studies and events informative and useful
for their work.
STOA studies are systematically published on the STOA website and the EP Think Tank
pages, and the events are open to the public and also webstreamed for
those unavailable to attend in person. Therefore, since the activities
of STOA are accessible to anyone who is interested, researchers and
experts, policy-makers in countries around the world, other TA
institutions, but also civil society organisations and other citizens
may read and use those of interest to them.
COMMUNICATIONS & PUBLICATIONS
For each project, STOA produces several reports:
In addition, STOA also produces reports following its events and an
Annual Report highlighting the achievements in the preceding year.
Interested parties can subscribe to our newsletter by sending us an
e-mail to email@example.com.
- Full study
- Options Brief, summarising assessed policy options (2-4 pages)
- Layman's summary, presenting the study and its findings in a concise way for the non-experts.
STOA is increasingly relying on new media for reaching its target groups. It regularly publishes blog posts
announcing its events and reporting on news, projects and workshops.
Video clips presenting outcomes of the projects are produced and
uploaded on STOA's YouTube channel, summarising the work of STOA in an easily accessible way. Our events are regularly supported by live tweeting, enabling the dissemination to and the dialogue with the wider community.
Follow STOA via:
STOA website: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/stoa/
EPRS blog: http://epthinktank.eu/stoablogger
EPRS Twitter: https://twitter.com/ep_thinktank
EPRS LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/5184534?trk=hp-feed-company-name
STOA has been set up with a task to provide MEPs with scientific
evidence for their decisions on issues with techno-scientific
relevance. Assessing the impact of STOA and similar bodies and
institutions is not straightforward because the legislation seldom
quotes studies and reports. Also, policy-makers consult many different
sources of information on a particular topic. Therefore, finding ways
to directly assess the impact on decision-making in an objective way
remains STOA's goal for the future.
Nevertheless, some information exists that indirectly illustrates the impact of STOA.
A recent increase in STOA Panel membership (from 15 to 24 MEPs)
reflects a high interest among MEPs and committees and justifies the
need for having STOA as a permanent structure of the EP. At the
beginning of 2014 STOA carried out a survey among the 15 MEPs that
formed the STOA Panel at the time, and a sample of the EP staff. The
results showed that MEPs strongly agreed on their need for impartial
science-based information, recognised STOA as a credible information
source, but also considered that there was room for improving the
quality of information, the format of products and the promotion of
STOA, especially among MEPs who do not sit on the STOA Panel.
A very popular study on 'Mass surveillance of IT users' was published
in the beginning of 2015. Around the same time, the Scientific
Foresight Unit (STOA) produced a very successful report on 'Ten
technologies which could change our lives', which is meant to feed into
the priorities of the STOA Panel and parliamentary committees, in view
of possible anticipatory, precautionary or regulatory action at
Currently, more than 300 STOA newsletter subscribers are proactively informed about our studies and events.
THE WAY AHEAD
A STOA strategy for the future was discussed and adopted by the
outgoing STOA Panel at the end of the 7th legislative period, in the
beginning of 2014. Its main objectives were:
This is to be achieved by:
- ensuring that STOA will continue to provide sound and relevant policy advice to Members;
- ensuring that STOA remains proactive and its products and
working methods keep pace with rapid technological and political
- achieving optimal dissemination and awareness of STOA results
and activities, reaching out to all Members, relevant scientists and
the wider public.
In terms of projects and events in 2016 and onwards, following the
proposals received from MEPs and Committees, STOA is currently running
projects on precision agriculture, e-democracy, waste management, new
technologies and the social economy, technological support for people
with disabilities, and additive bio-manufacturing. STOA will soon be
launching projects on topics such as cyber-security, energy resilience,
technologies for humanitarian situations, technologies for regional
development, Horizon 2020, search engines, and transport infrastructure.
- consolidating STOA's strategic role within the EP by endowing
STOA with a foresight role in the area of science and technology and by
reinforcing its cooperation with committees;
- ensuring STOA products best serve EP's needs by long-term
programming of activities and ensuring an optimal balance between
- optimising the use of resources.
Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA)
Directorate-General for Parliamentary Research Services (EPRS)
Directorate for Impact Assessment and European Added Value
Rue Wiertz 60
Phone +32 2 284 1629
Fon +32 2 284 4545
Fax 32 2 284 4984
(c) EPTA, provided by ITA; version 01/2017