Designing Participatory Technology Assessments: A Reflexive Method for Advancing the Public Role in Science Policy Decision-making

Leah R. Kaplan, Mahmud Farooque, Daniel Sarewitz, David Tomblin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Decades of social science scholarship have documented and explored the interconnected nature of science, technology, and society. Multiple theoretical frameworks suggest the potential to direct this process of mutual shaping toward desired outcomes and away from undesired ones through broader inclusion of new voices and visions. In 2010, a group of researchers, educators, and policy practitioners established the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) network to operationalize these frameworks. Over the course of a decade, ECAST developed an innovative and reflexive participatory technology assessment (pTA) method to support democratic science policy decision-making in different technical, social, and political contexts. The method's reflexive nature gave rise to continuous innovations and iterative improvements. The current ECAST pTA method includes three participatory phases: 1) Problem Framing; 2) ECAST Citizen Deliberation; and 3) Results and Integration. Proving adaptable and replicable, the method has generated outputs for decision-making on a variety of science and technology issues and at governance scales ranging from the local to the national and international. ECAST's distributed network model has also promoted independence, continuity, and sustainability through changing sociopolitical contexts. In this paper, we detail the current state of the ECAST pTA method; share mini case studies to illustrate circumstances that prompted new method innovations; and offer a vision for further developing and integrating pTA into democratic science policy decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number120974
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Citizen deliberation
  • Decision-making
  • Participatory technology assessment (pTA)
  • Reflexivity
  • Responsible innovation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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