Doing TranSTEP involves:
- Convening a TranSTEP group for dialogues across institutional and disciplinary domains;
- collaborative situation analysis and problem framing;
- transparent method reflection;
- assessment review;
- potentially undertaking new assessments;
- ending up in results integration.
The process is focused on creating learning processes between the participants. In the process, there needs to be a continual process reflection to adapt to the situation under scrutiny. As such, the assessment process allows for both the integration of existing assessments and the initiation of new trans-disciplinary or disciplinary assessments or deliberative events to fill knowledge gaps. It ends up with an original trans-disciplinary assessment, through dialogue between people involved in earlier assessments, in interaction with decision-makers, stakeholders and the public.
By drawing lessons from earlier assessments and initiating new assessments/deliberative events to fill knowledge gaps (including clarifying the extent of uncertainties that will have to be addressed by decision makers), assessment practitioners and commissioners will produce integrated conclusions to support the creation of responsible policies for research and innovation.
See here for a more detailed map of the process.
TranSTEP does not involve creating new institutions and can be used in many different institutional settings. It is a conceptual approach that can be adapted to established practices and organisations, as well as to situations with unclear institutional structures (as may be the case for emerging science and technologies). Therefore, TranSTEP is a process-oriented approach that is not in competition with established assessment institutions.
The objectives of TranSTEP are:
- To broaden the scope of assessments of complex technology issues to account for all relevant dimensions, such as economic, environmental, ethical and social aspects;
- To disclose different aspects and assumptions that are part of the problem framing such as the socio-economic context, the uncertainties and the interests of the actors involved and affected by the technology under analysis;
- To integrate the knowledge and findings of previous and new assessment studies.
Outcomes of the TranSTEP process
There are two main outcomes of TranSTEP:
– TranSTEP leads to mutual learning between the different communities that participate in the process. This involves learning about others’ perspectives and self-reflective learning about ones’ own practices and assumptions. As such the TranSTEP will support practitioners from various assessment domains and other communities to recognise and deal with complex situations, in particular by engaging in broader assessment dialogues.
– TranSTEP provides an integrated knowledge base on the technology issue under scrutiny and recommendations for policy or decision making that reflect a range of societal concerns, depending on the problem formulation at the beginning of the process. It broadens decision makers’ perceptions of the science and technology-related situation into which their decisions intervene. These recommendations can be targeted at different decision making or policy making actors related to the issue. The recommendations will also serve as a vehicle to stimulate socio-political debates.
Flexibility of TranSTEP
While we advocate TranSTEP in the format described above end users have suggested that the approach can be used in more flexible ways. When decisions are urgent the process can be compressed, while when there is instead a need for ‘preparedness’ related to upcoming developments the group can exist over a longer period.
Some end users have found TranSTEP helpful as providing resources for internal quality control of their own assessment projects. While we acknowledge the value of this use, we still stress that the trans-domain dialogue is key to the approach. This requires a certain amount of resources in terms of time and money, but this can be adapted according to the situation.