Research Area: Technology Assessment

The increasing mechanization of our daily life requires a thorough analysis of technology-related risks. At the Institute for Safety, Security and Risk Sciences (ISR), aspects of the consequences of technologies and technological science projects – with particular attention to risk, safety and security aspects – are examined. Technologies with potentially greater societal or global impact, as in the case of nuclear technology, are prioritized. The focus is on the analysis of current use of technology, ongoing development, scientific and technical potential as well as possibilities for responsible and sustainable technology design. To this end, the institute pursues a problem-oriented interdisciplinary approach

Prospective Technology Assessment

The concept of prospective technology assessment (ProTA), pursued by the institute in cooperation with other partners, starts – in a nutshell – from the following basic diagnoses:

  1. We are in an age of techno-scientific dynamics with an increased application orientation already in research, which generates new challenges for the social interaction with science and technology.
  2. The growing contradictions and ambiguities of scientific and technological progress make it necessary to find ways to handle them responsibly.
  3. Already in the research process, there is an observably increasing orientation towards governance in the interaction of intra- and extra-scientific actors. Which forgoes beyond the old dichotomy of scientific stubbornness on the one hand and political governance ideas on the other.
  4. A determination of scientific-technical progress can no longer be made on the basis of purely internal scientific criteria.


From these diagnoses follows the need for early analysis and evaluation in the research phase itself – before new technical artifacts have arisen. The recognition and reflection of intentions or visions of the research itself as well as its potential for use on social problems must already take place in an early phase. In order to help prepare for a timely and reasonable technical and social design, the analysis of various developmental paths and socio-technical alternatives, including intended effects, undesirable consequences, risks and uncertainties are of central importance. It is indispensable that the focus of the investigations lie on the considered scientific-technical core of development dynamics and the type of new technological possibilities in the field of tension between nature and culture. This includes assessments, motives and interests of those involved in and outside of research. Through design criteria, normative aspects can be taken into account that make a positive orientation transparent and discursive for the dynamics of progress. Through a prospective and anticipatory analysis of technological dynamics and consequences with special consideration of risks, safety and security challenges, it should be possible to design technology development in a wide-ranging discourse. ProTA wants to make an important contribution to this.

The ProTA concept is to be further expanded and increasingly applied to suitable technology fields that the institute handles.

Universität für Bodenkultur Wien