The STOA Programme of the European Parliament

TA-Institutionen und -Programme

The STOA Programme of the European Parliament

von Christine Wennrich (STOA)

After a brief period as a pilot project, the Scientific and Technological Options Assessment (STOA) programme of the European Parliament was established in 1987. Like other parliamentary technology assessment agencies established in the last decade, its creation reflects an awareness among some Parliamentarians of the increasing importance of science and technology for society and of the need for better understanding of the complex social, political, environmental, economic and other aspects of the scientific and technological choices that Parliamentarians are called upon to consider.


Recognising their special needs, Parliamentarians conceived STOA as an agency that would be able to provide objective, comprehensive and independent assessments of scientific and technological issues that would be for the benefit of Parliament as a whole. The independent nature of STOA reports is important given the role of the European Parliament in reviewing proposals of the European Commission (the executive branch of the European Union). Objectivity and comprehensiveness are important not only because Parliament requires information that is free of bias and that covers issues in depth, but also because the credibility of any organization that purports to do technology assessment depends on these qualities.


Within the European Parliament, STOA has the status of an "organ of Parliament", but it is outside the Committee structure, therefore its membership is not automatically subject to the same informal agreements between political groups that determine proportional party representation.

The structure of STOA has two parts: the STOA Panel and the STOA Team. The STOA Panel carries the political responsibility for STOA's work. It is composed of Members nominated to the Panel as representatives of European Parliament Committees. The Panel sets the annual Workplan from proposals by Committees, giving priority to projects linked to the European Parliament's legislative work. Operational responsibility is with the STOA Team, in the Directorate-General for Research. The Team comprises 15 research managers and researchers plus budget and administration personnel. The majority of them are not EP officials; rather they are external experts working on 1-2 year contracts as STOA Scholars/Fellows. STOA also commissions some of its assessment studies from external experts, researchers, research institutes, laboratories or consultants to whom contracts are given to prepare specific studies.

Network Activities

STOA is one of the members of the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) network. The EPTA network was formally established in 1990 under the patronage of the then President of the European Parliament, Mr. Enrique Baron Crespo. The Network was conceived by Lord Kennet of POST (UK), and received enthusiastic support from five other European Community Parliamentary Technology Assessment centres (Rathenau Institue, Netherlands; OPECST, France; POST, UK; TAB, FRG; Danish Board of Technology), who are concerned to develop the quality of their work by sharing the products and experiences of their work with other similar organizations. The network has used the services of a full-time Coordinator at STOA since 1 February 1992, whose actions serve to improve and enhance the flows of information between the actors.

Subject areas of TA-activities

The subject areas of STOA's technology assessment activities cover a broad range of issues, but focus on the areas which have important implications at the European level.

The 1995 workplan (till February 1996) is divided into the following main "Project-Headings":

Life sciences

Within each area there are "Lead Projects" which run one year dealing, for example, with

Environmental Costing and Taxation

Reducing Pressure on Ecologically Sensitive Zones in the Mediterranean Region: Scientific criteria for the assessment of EU policy instruments

Nuclear Safeguards and Nuclear Safety in Eastern Europe

New Biomedical Technologies: a prospective assessment (covering biomedical engineering, instrumentation techniques, pharmaceuticals and their ethical, social and legal implications)

The Future of the Car and the Car of the Future

The Information Society.

There are also smaller, shorter projects within each subject area as well as workshops and seminars. A description and outline on all projects in the form of a "Project Brief" is available upon request.


Christine Wennrich
European Parliament STOA Programme
SCH 4/84, L-2929 Luxembourg
Tel.: +35 2 4300-359