Considering the relevance and importance of foresight literacy nowadays, the GYA Science Advice Working Group have recently organised and carried out a Workshop on Strategic Foresight for Early-Career Researchers to look at exploring, anticipating, and shaping the future in a world that is changing faster than ever before. Futurist experts from Policy Horizon Canada, a government organisation that helps the Canadian government to build strong policies in the face of an uncertain future, provided the training. The session was held virtually in early November 2020, with almost 60 participants from the GYA and a number of National Young Academies.
The experts provided a brief introduction to foresight, explained how foresight can support strategic thinking, planning, and decision making, and provided an overview of the different methods and tools used in foresight research. Also, participants had hands-on experience in a foresight method (“influence cascade activity”) in breakout group activities.
In the Biodigital Convergence breakout group, the participants constructed scenarios that responded to “What happens to humanity when biology and digital technologies converge?”. For that, four current biodigital innovations were presented, namely: genetically modified bacteria that turn sunlight and sugars into biohydrogen, bio-alternatives to petrochemicals, lab grown food, and smart algae bioreactors; from which bio-alternatives to petrochemicals was chosen as the most impactful innovation to reduce CO2 emissions in the future. Then, three-order scenarios were envisioned and multiple ideas from each participant were collected.
In the Future of Social Connections breakout group, the participants imagined, collectively, the future scenarios of social lives lived remotely and of virtual assistants and social robots. The future of online working, learning, shopping, socialising, dating, as well as artificial intelligence virtual assistants, friends, coaches, and therapists were addressed. Then, three-order scenarios were envisioned and multiple ideas from each participant were collected.
In summary, this training in strategic foresight provided basic concepts and hands-on experience aimed at nurturing a future-thinking culture in tomorrow’s science advisors.
Policy Horizons Canada is a federal government organisation that conducts foresight. Their mandate is to help the Government of Canada develop future-oriented policy and programmes that are more robust and resilient in the face of disruptive change on the horizon. They produce content that may attract academic, public, and international attention, and do not publish commentary on policy decisions of the Government.