The European S&T Value Atlas
The project partners strongly suggest to produce a European S&T Value Atlas in regular intervals that would take up questions of science and technology in relation to their value dimensions. The project has produced a proto-type of such an atlas. Its function would be to address issues of current concern and relate them explicitly to values as they are held in various societies.
The task would be to routinely inform the EU Commission, with DG research in particular, members of the European Parliament, and project coordinators under FP/ or higher about the value landscape in Europe, in a way that is adjusted to the typical problems for S&T policy making. In a concise manner it would highlight selected issues as a 2-pager, with brief textual information, accompanied by informative graphics and references to reliable sources. Value Isobars thus proposes to include the production of a European Value Atlas as an important element of value-informed governance of S&T. It is the manifestation of what in the project title is referred to as value “isobars”, i.e. the equivalent to weather charts, providing an overview of the landscape of values that particular S&T developments enter into.
The challenge for policy-makers who wants to be value informed
We believe that there should exist a forum where S&T policy makers at different levels can get reliable knowledge on values in their European context and a forum where these values can be discussed. Values have been recognised as long-term drivers for the public’s responses to societal changes, at the same time values are drivers with an elusive character. Ignoring the value landscape of Europe in the early stages of research and technology development can backfire at the stage of implementation, as has been witnessed in several cases, e.g. GMO and stem cell research.
However, this is not just a matter of effective policy making, but also a question of legitimate policy making. European policy makers shape the value landscape of Europe in several ways, enhancing the values of some groups and disadvantaging others, thus they need to ask themselves which values they need to take into account. Whose values? And at which stage of the policy making process?
There are a few existing studies and surveys on values, including e.g. the World Values Study, the European Values Study, various Eurobarometers and national surveys. There are also a number of webpages on European values although most of these are partisan. However, we see several problems for policy makers who seek to be informed by these studies in their S&T policy making.
First of all, the sheer amount, the technical character and also the varying quality of these studies and surveys represent a problem for a policy maker.
Secondly, few of the surveys and studies focus explicitly on values and concerns relating to new and emerging sciences and technologies. Thirdly, many of these studies, and in particular the quantitative surveys, focus on singular preferences and fail to bring out the more comprehensive value sets of the respondents in their questions and data analysis.
The Value atlas proposal
To address these kinds of problems the Value Isobars consortium has come up with the following suggestion:
· To routinely inform the EU Commission, with DG Research in particular, members of the European Parliament, and project coordinators under FP7 or higher about the value landscape in Europe, in a way that is adjusted to the typical problems for S&T policy making. A “European S&T Value Atlas” will be suited to this task.
The term “atlas” is used about a wide range of attempts to present information in a graphical and conceded form, including social and political cartography. We believe that complex information about values and new technologies can successfully be presented in this format, acknowledging that it will be challenging in several ways. The primary purpose of the Atlas will be to guide policy makers in the following
(i) designing long term S&T policies;
(ii) setting priorities and specific calls in FPs;
(iii) identifying needs for engagement in public dialogue and participatory exercises;
(iv) designing special formats for S&T projects in order to meet societal challenges;
(v) provide guidance for identifying sensitive value dimensions in specific research areas,
(vi) advice when e.g. the European Group of Ethics should discuss ethical issues in a new technology in some detail.
A European S&T Value Atlas has the advantage of providing different types of policy makers with the same information about relevant values in an accessible and non-technical form of presentation. This can provide a much needed common point of reference in discussions among policy makers at different levels and from different disciplines.
Because of the condensed way of presenting the information, the short format and the non-technical mode of presentation this policy-making tool can also be made accessible to other sectors and groups. Insofar as the scientific communities, NGOs and ordinary citizens also engage with the Atlas, it can become a policy tool which is discussed, criticized, contested and thus improved. As such the Atlas could potentially increase the transparency of the policy-making process, or at least spark debate and engagement around S&T and value issues.
- For more about the atlas, its format and dissemination:: WP6_4b_The idea of a European S&T Value Atlas
(3 954kb - 8,2 min at 64K ISDN)
 Our WP 3 has showed how participatory exercises can be conducted in a value-informed way. The Atlas could be used in such participatory exercises and in connection with foresight studies.