This policy brief integrates the results of reviewing and mapping recent security foresight projects and initiatives as well as insights gained from interviews and workshops conducted with security experts and decision makers.
This Policy Brief is based on the research conducted under FORCE WP3 – Review of recent and current research related to security-oriented Foresight and Horizon-scanning activities. A full version of the results can be found in the deliverable report “D3.1 – Final Synthesis Report on Security Oriented Foresight Mapping of Outputs and Methods” – and may be downloaded from the FORCE website (www.force-europe.eu)
There are several sources that describe, compare and analyse foresight methods. The following table includes a short description of some of the more popular foresight methods including their strengths and weaknesses and is based on Popper, on the Millennium Project and on the foresight guide by Jackson.
|Foresight methods strengths and weaknesses
||A creative and interactive method used in face-to-face and online group working sessions to generate new ideas around a specific area of interest.
||It is fast, collaborative, cheap, commonly known and proven. It may produce out-of-the-box thinking.
||It is insufficiently robust underlying thinking if no other foresight tools are used.
||A technique that involves repeated polling of the same individuals, feeding back anonymised responses from earlier rounds of polling.
||Anonymity. Ability to explore objectively issues that require judgment. Powerful technique when used to seek answers to appropriate questions.
||Difficult to perform well (e.g. choice of participants). The ease with which questions can be asked for which better techniques exist. The time that it takes.
||Systematic and internally consistent visions of plausible future states of affairs
|Help in developing plans that are viable over the wide range of possible futures. Open up the mind to hitherto unimaginable possibilities.
||Can be mistakenly assumed as official possible futures. Can fail to be useful when their authors either fear criticism for saying too many things that seem too “far out”. The practice of scenarios is very time-consuming.
||Structural brainstorming where a certain event or trend is analysed by imagining its primary impacts and secondary impacts.
|It is easy and enjoyable to use. It gets people thinking about the future quickly. Can help identify positive and negative feedback loops. It moves the mind from linear, hierarchical, and simplistic thinking to more network-oriented, organic, and complex thinking.
|The complexity of the overview can become overwhelming. It can also yield contradictory impacts. It is no better than the collective judgments of those involved.
||Events with perceived low probability of occurrence but potentially high impact if they were to occur.
||An approach to overcoming blind spots in our perceptions of the future. Helps to understand dramatic events and discontinuities.
||Wild Cards seem far-fetched, implausible and impossible. Their concept is steel vague. Many efforts are needed to convince people that they are valuable. Not always fit with organisational environments.
||A method for rigorously structuring and investigating the internal relationships of inherently non-quantifiable socio-technical problem complexes.
||It defines structured variables and creates a real dynamic world. It can help discover new relationships that were overlooked before and encourage the identification of boundary conditions.
|It requires strong and experienced facilitation. It takes relatively long time to complete. The outputs of the process are no better than the quality of its inputs.
|Trend Impact Analysis
||A forecasting technique which examines the cause, nature, potential impact, likelihood and speed of arrival of an emerging issue of change.
||It is relatively simple to perform and it is cost effective. It forces consideration of non-linear trend extrapolation. It also offers sensitivity analysis.
|It relies on judgement and suffers from situations of incomplete variables.
||A method which outlines the future of a field of technology, generating a timeline for development of various interrelated technologies and (sometimes) including factors like regulatory and market structures.
||It provides information to make better technology investment decisions. Help clarify alternatives in complex situations. Generate a plan to develop technology alternatives.
|It is costly and time consuming activity. It may fail to consider other emerging forces impinging on the roadmap. It requires knowledge on the process of roadmapping.
More recently, Saritas et. Al. described 10 typical selection criteria for foresight methods, including:
- Proof of concept (method’s “success”),
- Availability of resources,
- Time constraints,
- Level of participation desired,
- Type of stakeholders engagement,
- Suitability for combination with other methods,
- Prior experience and familiarity,
- Quantitative and qualitative data requirements, and
- Methodological competence.
The research on foresight methods selection is still developing as stated in a recent article on combining qualitative and quantitative methods: “The selection of methods in FTA remains largely a context-driven issue, as there are no ‘recipe books’ and only limited attempts to better clarify the relation between context, content and approach of an FTA project”. The “limited attempts” referred to are the EFP and the work of Popper, Keenan and others that accompanied it.
Mapping of security foresight activities
The mapping phase of the FORCE project includes methods and outcomes from a wide variety of sources, including past foresight-oriented EU projects and other foresight studies in the security domain from the last 5 years. Efforts were made to enrich the information sources through scanning national and international foresight networks.
The mapping process was preceded by interviews with potential users of the FORCE decision support tool. The interviews provided feedback for the mapping process about potential users needs and made data collection more efficient. The information gathered included trends, threats, technologies, scenarios, wild cards & weak signals, and recommendations.
The mapping included also foresight methods, including some relatively new methods that are relevant also to the security domain but were not used in the projects that we have mapped. Some of these methods are already practiced in countries such as Germany, Singapore and the US. These are mainly quantitative methods enabled by recent technological advances, such as big data, crowdsourcing, and system dynamics.
Interviews with security experts
Altogether 18 interviews were conducted in the FORCE project and the experts interviewed were mainly from national police organisations, research centres/think thanks and ministries of interior/defence.
Security foresight was assessed as being of high or medium importance by a large majority of the interviewees (15 out of 18, 84% of the sample). 12 experts indicated that foresight has a high added value for policy and strategy in their organisations. These findings strengthen the basic premise that FORCE is based upon, and that is to provide end users with structured data extracted from security foresight projects.
The experts interviewed tend to have more interest in risks and threats as well as in technology trends rather than in societal trends. Trends and threats concerning cyber-crimes and terrorism were cited as examples of topics that are more relevant and interesting, as well as topics such as encryption, the dark web, 3D printing and robotics.
As for the ideal time frame of security foresight results, half of the interviewees indicated that the most relevant time frame for their organisation is short-term (between 1 and 5 years) while 7 interviewees indicated more than 5 years as their preferred time-horizon. According to one of the interviewees any analysis of more than 5 years would require all assumptions to be frequently revised and adapted to changing circumstances.
Only a few interviewees mentioned that foresight activities are carried out and integrated within the decision–making process of their organisations (4 out of 18). The integration of foresight activities into the decision making process is in a majority of cases based on informal processes, such as presentation of reports, papers, or policy briefs to decision/policy makers. Overall, as one respondent remarked, it is very difficult to assess how far the results of foresight activities are integrated in, or impact decision-making, especially in public bodies.
Most of the respondents said that they use all or nearly all the sources identified in the interview template. The next table lists specific resources mentioned by the experts in the interviews.
|Sources of information mentioned
|Sources of information
|International and European Reports
||Reports EUROPOL (SOCTA, TE-SAT)
NATO cyber centre documentation (www.ccdcoe.org)
Interpol and Europol reports
Documents produced by the European Defence Agency
|Reports produced by national sources/authorities
||US State Department reports
UK government Foresight Projects www.gov.uk/government/collections/foresight-projects
Reports produced by think tank such as RAND Corporation, Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), Ifri, Pearls in Policing.
|Reports produced internally by your organisation or for your organisation
||Internal Horizon Scanning bulletins, reports based on information collected by the network of security officers in Embassies.
||International learning conference (“The pearls in policing”)
||Magazine ‘Foreign Affairs’
Most of the interviewees were not aware of the EU projects mentioned in the interviews. Only three interviewees were familiar with some of the projects, namely FESTOS, FORESEC, EURACOM, PATS, SERON, SECURENV and DESSI. Most of the interviewees indicated that they would appreciate knowing more about these sources and the potential for them to add value to their activities.
As for usage of foresight methods, the most frequent methods that were mentioned in the interviews are internal meetings, expert panels, focus groups, brainstorming, SWOT analyses, impact analyses and scenarios. The majority of interviewees are practitioners and do not master methodologies, but emphasized their interest in a user friendly tool enabling them to understand methodological aspects of foresight.
The interviewees were asked to point out the most valuable types of outcomes. “Vision, scenarios and forecasts”, as well as “TEEPSE, drivers, trends and megatrends” are most valuable for respondents. Key and emerging technologies also have high and medium added value whereas wild cards seems less valuable to respondents. Models and frameworks are the least valuable among all foresight outputs.
 Glenn, J. C. And Gordon T. J., “Futures Research Methodology Version 3.0”, http://www.millennium-project.org/millennium/FRM-V3.html
 Jackson, M., “Practical Foresight Guide: Chapter 3. Methods”, www.shapingtomorrow.com/media-centre/pf-ch03.pdf
 Saritas, O., et. al., “The Evolution of the Use of Foresight Methods: A Bibliometric Analysis of Global Research Output for Cutting Edge FTA Approaches”, 5th International Conference on Future-Oriented Technology Analysis, 2014. https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/sites/default/files/fta2014-t3practice_185.pdf
 Haegeman, K. et. al., “Quantitative and Qualitative approaches in Future-oriented Technology Analysis (FTA): From combination to integration?”, Technological Forecasting & Social Change 80 (2013) 386-397
 Future-Oriented Technology Analysis
 European Foresight Platform. http://www.foresight-platform.eu/
 Popper, R., “How are foresight methods selected?”, in: foresight, 10 (6), 62-89 (2008)