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Posted in September 2015

a new master course published in OpenCourseWare: Technology Development and Impact Assessment

a new course of the master Engineering and Policy Analysis published in TU Delft OpenCourseWare: Technology Development and Impact Assessment.

This course is also available as online master course and will start the 18th of April 2016.


The course gives knowledge of and insight into
(1) technology development from a societal perspective,
(2) a wide range of impact assessment procedures and methods to assess and regulate the potential impact of technological projects, programmes and technology policies, and
(3) ethical theories and tools to judge and manage social consequences of these initiatives.

Ad (1) To overcome one-sided Technology Push and Market Pull approaches of technological innovation, a (quasi-)evolutionary model of technological variation and social selection will be presented. Relevant concepts are ‘socio-technical system’ (technology plus actors involved) and ‘technological regime’ (rule-set). Consequently, a simple Technology Assessment step-by-step plan will be introduced as a base for the methods and techniques of Impact Assessment and as a base for a comprehensive ethical evaluation.

Ad (2) New technology-related plans, programmes and policies have all kinds of effects, including ‘second order’ effects, which should be assessed and managed in accordance with social aims and expectations. Hereto the course presents four different forms and applications of impact assessment:
– Environmental Impact Assessment
– Social Impact Assessment
– Social Cost Benefit Analysis
– Risk Analysis.

Ad (3) Ethical theories and tools will be presented to analyse and balance new technologies and the range of effects that could be expected on the basis of the series of impact assessments. This leads to an ethical-strategic perspective for action and transition (Strategic Impact Assessment).

Study Goals

Several theoretical viewpoints concerning the interrelationship and dynamics of technology and society, resulting in a view of co-evolution and co-construction of technology
– The conceptual difference between goals and effects and between scoping and screening
– A step-by-step plan on the basis of which a series of impact assessments and associated ethical evaluations can be carried out
– The existence, application, requirements and structure of a number of impact assessment methods, esp.:
• Environmental Impact Assessment
• Social Impact Assessment
• Social Cost Benefit Analysis
• Risk Analysis
– How to match the demands of a specific policy context with the appropriate modifications of an assessment technique
– Ethical theories and tools for reflecting on the gathered Impact Assessment data- Understanding the (ethical) assumptions underlying the above methods and their inherent limitations
– How to draw conclusions on the basis of the ethical analysis in terms of Strategic Impact Assessment

After taking the module the student will be able to:
– Identify and redefine problems in which developments of technology and society are intertwined, i.e. in terms of socio-technical systems and technological regimes
– Delineate system and context as well as goals and effects
– Determine which impact assessment method(s) is/are required in a given situation and (ethically) reflect on the chosen impact assessment(s)
– Design a global organizational set-up of an impact assessment study and justify the scope and delineation of the chosen approach
– Assess the quality of existing impact studies and reports
– Formulate ethical criteria that could help in comparing different technologies (for instance nuclear power plants and hydropower dams)
– Apply the assessment techniques to interpret policy principles (such as the Precautionary Principle)



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