ICSU Foresight Analysis Report 2 (2012)
In 2010, ICSU launched a Foresight consultation exercise as part of the planning for its 6-year strategy, 2012-2017. The Foresight exercise focused on the organization and directions of international science in 2031 (the year of ICSU´s centennial celebration) and was deliberately designed to explore a longer-term horizon beyond the immediate strategic planning period. It was done in two parts:
Part 1 consisted of a broad consultation with the scientific community, in particular ICSU’s national and union Members, to identify ‘key drivers’ that will shape international science over the next two decades. These drivers were then used to develop four plausible exploratory scenarios to explore how different factors may combine to influence the science landscape.
Part 2, which is the focus of this report, built on the work done for the exploratory scenarios, to develop a more aspirational ‘success scenario’. An initial draft of this success scenario, including its potential implications for ICSU, was produced at a workshop in 2011 and this was then refined after a series of consultations with the ICSU community. As a final step, it was ‘road-tested’ against the four exploratory scenarios that had been developed in part 1, which led to the identification of key challenges or tensions that ICSU is likely to face between now and 2031. Some potential responses to these challenges are included in this report.
The two reports are complementary and ideally should be read sequentially although they are written as ‘stand alone’ documents. The detailed rationale for the choice of a scenario approach to foresight is given in report 1 and will not be repeated here. However, it is important to emphasise that foresight scenarios, including the ‘success scenario’ that follows, are not designed to be predictions. One of the most common criticisms of foresight is that you cannot predict the future, which is absolutely true but also reflects a misunderstanding of what foresight is about. Building foresight scenarios is a way of combining current knowledge and trajectories
with creative thinking and imagination to explore potential future pathways in a very complex world. It is highly unlikely that any of the four exploratory scenarios or the success scenario will be fully realised but elements of them are likely to occur in some combination. Having thought about these issues beforehand should enable ICSU as an organisation to be more agile and responsive. Knowing what our ideal ‘success scenario’ world would be like can help us to contribute better to realising at least a piece of that world.