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Issue 11, 2nd quarter 2006

Foresighting Europe Newsletter

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Shared visions, common research futures

Using Foresight to improve the science-policy relationship

This project[1] formulated practical guidelines to optimise the policy contribution of Foresight at European level. As a first major application of these guidelines, the study attempted to design a European Foresight on European RTD policy in the area of transport, integrating the goal of sustainable development. This emphasis on RTD policy and sustainable development is central to Europe's vision of the future.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES FOR THE USE OF FORESIGHT IN THE EUROPEAN POLICY MAKING PROCESS

The absence of a systematic roadmap for firmly embedding Foresight in the policy-making process was the main motivation behind this initiative. The study formulated practical guidelines to optimise the policy contribution of Foresight at the European level and it shows the best way of implementing Foresight at national and European levels. In the last decade, significant changes have taken place in the science-policy relationship and these are taken into account to ensure that Foresight exercises are rooted in the context of contemporary policy. Rather than provide a comprehensive discussion of the selection of social scientific Foresight techniques and approaches, the study instead provides an account of the ways in which Foresight feeds into the policy process.

A DESIGN CASE ON “SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY” USED TO EVALUATE AND TEST THE PROPOSED GUIDELINES

As a first major application of these guidelines, a European Foresight on European RTD policy in the area of transport is proposed: it integrates a European and sustainable development component, along with expert feedback obtained by means of a web survey. It identifies a set of principles that, if followed, ensure that Foresight makes an effective contribution to policy development. A checklist to ensure the implementation of these principles was proposed for identifying and using S&T priorities. These are important in achieving the objective of sustainable development in the context of Foresight exercises.

Promoting the development of technological capabilities is the raison d'être of RTD policy and the core issue of the study. In order for RTD policies to contribute to sustainable development, they need to address societal issues beyond the traditional boundaries of particular sectors. One implication of this is that, in the EU Member States, long-term planning can only be effective if the broader European context is taken into account.

CONCLUSIONS DERIVING FROM THE ROADMAP AND THE ANALYSIS

In a concluding session, specific issues addressing the European dimension of Foresight and the practical consequences of the presented principles and guidelines were raised:

  • It is both possible and useful to conduct Foresight studies at the level of the European Union: Foresight exercises at regional or even national levels can be more instrumental in nature and have technological rather than societal orientations. They can even be aimed specifically at investment planning. European Foresight must be more informative in nature, focusing on influencing policy-thinking rather than policy-making. The European Foresight exercise must overcome barriers due to the differences in culture within Europe; consensus and cooperation may also prove more difficult at the European level.
  • Maintain Foresight at multiple levels: Any Foresight exercise needs to be aware of multiple levels: just like a European-level Foresight must cater for cultural and national differences, so a national or regional Foresight must take into account Europe-wide considerations. The commitment of the European Union means that internal competition must be managed so that, in the long run, the society as a whole benefits.
  • Foresight must not be purely academic: The success of Foresight exercises should be measured by analysing what occurred after completion of the exercise. Because implementation is so critical, post-exercise planning must be part of the original design of the exercise, its conduct, and its evaluation.

[1] “Improving the science/policy relationship with the help of Foresight: a European perspective” (contractor: RAND Europe/NL)

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