In 2015 foresight experts from Germany drafted guidelines for conducting research and evaluation in futures studies. Their “classic” anthology on quality standards is now available in English.
Foresight, futures studies, but also technology assessment, and trend research share a research perspective directed towards the future. In recent years futures studies have experienced an increasing demand and widespread dissemination. There have been considerable advances in terms of methods, procedures and approaches. Nonetheless the epistemic and practical challenges of both gaining knowledge about future developments and creating useful future images remain. This raises many questions: How to recognize good and profound futures research? What are the hallmarks of a rigorous investigation of the future — one that fulfills research standards? Does justice to its subject matter, and effectively supports decision-making?
The editorial team consisting of experienced academics and professionals of the field identifies 18 criteria that can be used to determine the quality of futures research projects and processes. The book, which was already published in German language in 2015 [contents in German], is now available in English: “Standards of Futures Research – Guidelines for Practice and Evaluation”. The contributions of the anthology offer guidance for scientists and practitioners and describe the pillars and standards by which the quality of results and methods in futures studies can be assessed. In addressing cross-cutting issues of quality in futures research, the authors have identify three underlying core questions leading to three groups of standards:
(1) Which specific standards result from the fact that futures research explicitly deals with the future as a subject of inquiry?
(2) What standards result from the fact that futures research aims to address this subject matter scientifically?
(3) Which standards result from the purposes of futures research like informing decision making in politics, society and economy?
The standards presented as a first group – The Future as a Subject of Inquiry – pertain to research methods, validation techniques, and approaches for substantiating propositions about future matters. They also address various needs: to account for the fundamental indeterminacy of the future; to explicitly account for underlying assumptions; and to properly characterize descriptions of the future as possible, probable, or desirable.
The standards in the second group – Good Research Practice – require, for example, a clear definition of the research question and careful consideration of the research context. Additional topics addressed under this group include transparency, data quality, theoretical foundations, and method selection.
The standards of group 3 – Practical Relevance and Effectiveness – ensure a suitable orientation to real-world concerns and contexts. This group includes a large number of application-oriented quality criteria, in particular criteria with relevance for the management of successful future-oriented research and consulting projects.
With contributions – amongst others – by Kerstin Cuhls, Hans-Liudger Dienel, Edgar Göll, and Armin Grunwald.
Gerhold, Lars; Neuhaus, Christian; Schüll, Elmar; Schulz-Montag, Beate; Steinmüller, Karlheinz; Zweck, Axel (eds.) (2022): Standards of Futures Research. Guidelines for Practice and Evaluation. (Reihe „Zukunft und Forschung“). Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden, 158 p.
Overview: List of standards of the handbook
1 Standards of Group 1: The Future as a Subject of Inquiry
1.1 Images of the Future
1.3 Validation by Argumentation
1.4 Aligning Research with Ambitions for Action
2 Standards of Group 2: Good Research Practice
2.1 Objectives and Framework Conditions
2.3 Theoretical Foundations
2.4 Method Selection
2.5 Producing Quality Research
2.6 Scientific Relevance
2.7 Code of Conduct—Scientific Integrity
3 Standards of Group 3: Practical Relevance and Effectiveness
3.1 Practical Relevance, Usefulness, and Effectiveness
3.2 Consideration of Type, Role, and Specificity of the Research Audience
3.3 Transferability and Communication of Results
3.4 Identifying Decision-Making Spaces and Options
3.5 Project and Process Management
About the editors:
Lars Gerhold – Research Forum on Public Safety and Security, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Dirk Holtmannspötter – VDI Technologiezentrum GmbH, Düsseldorf, Germany
Christian Neuhaus – FUTURESAFFAIRS, Büro für aufgeklärte Zukunftsforschung, Berlin, Germany
Elmar Schüll – Salzburg University of Applied Sciences Salzburg, Austria
Beate Schulz-Montag – foresightlab, Berlin, Germany
Karlheinz Steinmüller – Z_punkt GmbH The Foresight Company Berlin, Germany
Axel Zweck – Innovations- und Zukunftsforschung RWTH Aachen, Düsseldorf, Germany; VDI Technologiezentrum GmbH, Düsseldorf, Germany
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