The aim of this paper is to describe and evaluate the use of a five‐step foresight process and the application of scenario methods to grasp the range of future alternatives that might confront researchers and research managers in European metrology research institutes. The sector is to be examined as a part of a larger study that aims to reflect on the potential future roles for the public research institutes, in several sectors (the other sectors in the study included civil space, plant science, geosurveys, and marine), towards the development of the European Research Area (ERA).
The paper illustrates how scenario methods were used to, first, serve as a basis for policy recommendations for the field of European metrology research institutes and, second, help experts and stakeholders to network and actively discuss a shared vision of the future of the field.
This case demonstrates the need for proactive strategic management which goes well beyond the institutional boundary, into national policy and European decision making. As other areas of European research begin to think about the importance of European cooperation, lessons can be drawn from the experience of this particular sector. The process of looking forward took on board the political context and allowed participants and the researchers to think beyond these boundaries.
Although this is a pioneering study, there is a danger that some inputs may not have been captured. The results build on the input of a limited number of experts only and on the literature available in the public domain. There were few participants discussing the future of a vast field of research and this may mean that important input has not been captured. Time limitations in the workshops necessarily limit the scope for experts and policy makers to engage with the concepts. Follow‐up activities based on the research outputs are required for the findings to go forward.
Bringing together different stakeholders for shaping a shared vision through scenario workshops led to rich interactions and creative thinking. The workshops created a space for experts to consider policy options for reforming and making better use of the institutes in building the ERA.
Using scenario workshops for foresight research results as an opportunity for stakeholders to visualise different futures for metrology research within Europe. The public research institute sector tends to be more generally under‐studied as a component of modern innovation systems. We evaluate and show that the foresight process is an appropriate methodology to look at what is inherently a political process at the implementation level.
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