by Felix Moronta Barrios, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology ICGEB, Italy.
21 October 2021
During the first two decades of the twenty-first century, we have already seen terrorist attacks, financial crashes, new authoritarian governments, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, the rise of artificial intelligence, the emergence of new-generation biotechnologies, and a global pandemic that has surprised many world leaders. However, almost all of these events had been forecasted by scientists, futurists, and foresight practitioners.
Foresight is a discipline that uses collective intelligence in a structured, systematic and systemic way to anticipate future scenarios. As we have learned during previous GYA online training, foresight helps to:
- Look beyond the rearview mirror of past data and experiences to anticipate events.
- Share, explore, and test mental models about the world and how it could change.
- Examine assumptions embedded in policy development and decision making, and test them across a range of plausible futures.
- Support resilient strategies, policies, and programs, and inform risk management.
- Build early-warning systems by identifying signposts of potential futures.
- Organizational planning capabilities based on strategic foresight provide a structured approach to guide current decision-making in the face of uncertainty and to generate the ideas and energy required for transformational change among stakeholders.
To pursue future-oriented decision-making, institutions, organisations, and citizens must think strategically about the future and prepare themselves for both the predictable (new normal) and the unpredictable (future normal). A discussion on this topic was recently held during the Tsukuba Conference for Future Shapers 2021. In this activity, four foresight practitioners from the GYA gathered together to share their experiences and examine innovative approaches to anticipate the future normal of young scientists.
Note: Moderated by Felix Moronta (International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Italy), the discussion panel consisted of four foresight practitioners including Clarissa Ríos (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom), Ignacio Palomo (CNRS, France), Markus Prutsch (European Parliament, Austria), and Vanessa Schweizer (University of Waterloo, Canada) and a scientific illustrator (Jacopo Sacquegno) doing a real-time graphic recording of the discussion.
The discussion (available on YouTube here) revolved around six guiding questions:
- “Why is Foresight so important right now?”
- “What methods are usually used during Foresight exercises?”
- “How do you apply Foresight methods in your work?”
- “Tell us one or two outcomes of your Foresight analysis that you are very proud of and why?”
- “What about the future of Foresight, the Foresight of Foresight? How do you see the field in 20 years?”
- “How can one be engaged in foresight? How to cultivate or nurture future-minded thinking?”
Each of the experts came from different fields (bioengineering, biodiversity, culture and education, and climate change). As such, with specific examples, they offered broad perspectives and multiple examples of how strategic Foresight can be applied, and explained how its outcomes could be used for policy goals. The panel also provided useful insights and recommendations to early-career researchers on how to be engaged and involved in foresight.
As a parallel note, to increase the memory and comprehension of the audience, a scientific illustrator was present and made a live graphic recording of the event. This innovative feature captured with illustrations the discussed ideas to make them clearer and visible to everyone. Having a graphic recorder in the room gave the attendees a way to catch up and stay focused.
Note: Summary of the foresight discussion panel obtained by a real-time graphic recording (artwork by Jacopo Sacquegno)
This discussion panel combined the efforts of the GYA Science Advice Working Group in building the capacity of young scientists for future-oriented policy formulation.