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Long-Term Foresight: Trends and Best Practices

The theory-and-practice seminar hosted by the HSE’s ISSEK on 20 June, 2013 was devoted to the main trends of long-term Foresight studies in Russia and other countries. Speakers included leading experts of the Higher School of Economics’ Foresight Centre Jean Guinet, Sergei Shashnov, and Alexander Chulok.

The theory-and-practice seminar hosted by the HSE’s ISSEK on 20 June, 2013 was devoted to the main trends of long-term Foresight studies in Russia and other countries. Speakers included leading experts of the Higher School of Economics’ Foresight Centre Jean Guinet, Sergei Shashnov, and Alexander Chulok.

The opening address to the participants of the “Shaping S&T Policy on the Basis of Foresight: International Experience” seminar was delivered by Alexander Sokolov, director of the HSE’s International Foresight Centre. He proposed to discuss ways to increase efficiency of both the process and the results of long-term forecasting. According to him, even at early stages of applying this S&T policy shaping tool, all major stakeholders – people who make decisions – should be involved in the process.

Jean Guinet: “Foresight is the main anticipatory policy tool”
Jean Guinet: “Foresight is the main anticipatory policy tool”

Jean Guinet, head of the HSE ISSEK’s Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies, presented a paper “Global S&T policy agenda: key trends and challenges”. He described major global trends and grand challenges which Foresight experts believe to be particularly important. Major trends – drivers of significant changes include social (e.g. ageing of population, urbanisation), economic (growing role of new technologies, dependence of all sectors of the economy on innovations), and cognitive ones (convergence of life sciences with engineering and physics-related research).

Sergey Shashnov, head of the Strategic Foresight Department, spoke about emergence of national Foresight systems in other countries, and described a typology of relevant projects which include developing long-term Foresight, key technologies lists, and road maps. In his presentation he outlined major trends and described specific features of the above-mentioned projects implemented in various European and Asian countries and in the USA.

Sergey Shashnov: “Russia matches Foresight studies’ development trends observed during the last 20 years”
Sergey Shashnov: “Russia matches Foresight studies’ development trends observed during the last 20 years”
Starting with Asian countries, the expert gave a detailed description of the Chinese experience of building roadmaps; public authorities in this country pay a lot of attention to Foresight studies, which are integrated into the R&D and innovation activities management system in South Korea. Large-scale Foresight studies there are organised by the Korean Institute of S&T Evaluation and Planning (KISTEP). In France, experts every five years identify priority areas for S&T policy, and select key (critical) technologies.

Sergey Shashnov noted that in all countries which have long-standing Foresight traditions (Germany, the UK, etc.), development of strategic forecasts follows the same general procedure: first, regular Foresight studies are conducted, and relevant sustainable systems established; second, countries move on from autonomous projects to large-scale interconnected studies; and third, in every case there’s a lot of activity in the Foresight area, with relevant studies being commissioned not just by the government but by private companies too. According to Sergey Shashnov, these trends are fully present in Russia as well.

Alexander Chulok: “Long-term forecasting studies should be institutionalised”
Alexander Chulok: “Long-term forecasting studies should be institutionalised”

Alexander Chulok, head of Department of Science and Technology Foresight at HSE ISSEK, analysed the evolution of Russian Foresight project on the example of developing the Russian Long-Term S&T Foresight 2030. The expert described how the objectives the developers had to accomplish were becoming increasingly more complex – from composing a list of critical technologies at the initial stage to making a detailed description of global trends, challenges and technologies which could serve to address these challenges, and on to building an integrated technology Foresight system (the current phase). Alexander Chulok was convinced that Foresight activities should be institutionalised; such studies should be conducted regularly, and serve as a basis for shaping S&T policy.

Alexander Sokolov”: “Standards are not established “from above” but emerge de facto. Returning customers is a proof that the Foresight Centre is moving in the right direction”
Alexander Sokolov”: “Standards are not established “from above” but emerge de facto. Returning customers is a proof that the Foresight Centre is moving in the right direction”

During the subsequent discussion the seminar participants spoke about problems associated with evaluating Foresight projects, and the prospects of establishing relevant standards, equally meaningful to experts and customers.

Nataliya Karpova, associate professor at the Department of International Business of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, expressed a high opinion about the work performed by her colleagues from the HSE’s Foresight Centre, and supported their aspirations to establish clear evaluation standards for strategic Foresight projects. According to her, the “land consolidation” strategy was more than justified at the initial stage of Foresight, but as this field (and the expert community) mature, a certain “degree of liberty” becomes acceptable – in line with the standards set by the “pioneers”.

Alexander Sokolov, director of the HSE’s Foresight Centre, was convinced that standards shouldn’t be set “from above” but emerge de facto, and suggested another criterion for evaluation of Foresight studies: statistics on repeat commissions by customers. By this indicator, projects implemented by the Centre get high marks, among other things due to the fact that its staff make a good use of international long-term S&T Foresight experience, and can adapt it to Russian realities.


By Victoria Nosik, second year student, Faculty of Media Communications, probationer at the HSE Web portal’s news service