Real-time technology assessment
Social science scholarship has identified complex linkages between society and science, but it has been less successful at actually enhancing those linkages in ways that can add to the value and capability of each sector. We propose a research program to integrate natural science and engineering investigations with social science and policy research from the outset — what we call “real-time technology assessment” (real-time TA). Comprising investigations into analogical case studies, research program mapping, communication and early warning, and technology assessment and choice, real-time TA can inform and support natural science and engineering research, and it can provide an explicit mechanism for observing, critiquing, and influencing social values as they become embedded in innovations. After placing real-time TA in the context of scholarship on technology assessment, the paper elaborates on this coordinated set of research tasks, using the example of nano-scale science and engineering (nanotechnology) research. The paper then discusses issues in the implementation of real-time TA and concludes that the adoption of real-time TA can significantly enhance the societal value of research-based innovation.