Effective Policies for Research Infrastructure: The Role of Foresight
Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) - Research Centre for Economic and Regional Studies (HAS)
October 10, 2010
Maintenance Problems - Problemy Eksploatacji, Vol. 78, No. 3, pp. 25-33, 2010
Establishing and upgrading research infrastructures (RIs) have always been relatively expensive projects, even in those years when the absolute costs were much lower than nowadays. Further, running large RIs can also be rather costly. Thus, although RIs are usually not in the limelight, they can take up a considerable chunk of regional or national R&D budgets, and in some cases they can only be financed via international co-operation, given the funds required. Yet, RI policies have tended to be devised behind close doors, involving only a handful of experts and policy-makers – when national security or prestige has been at stake, politicians, too. The article first discusses five policy challenges which call for a radical overhaul of these old decision-making practices. Then it argues that foresight is a relevant policy tool to support these changes, by presenting major features of foresight.
The core arguments of these two sections can be summarised as follows: Decisions on building new RIs and upgrading existing ones present a complex challenge. There is a wide range of stakeholders, with their different, and sometimes even conflicting interests; while there is a lot at stake in terms of future scientific capabilities, with their consequences on socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable development. Strategic choices have to be made, with significant immediate financial repercussions, and potentially huge long-term implications – while the constraints are severe, the opinions might significantly differ, and no evidence exists in a strict sense. Foresight is definitely not a panacea to address this complex challenge, but can assist decision-makers. It can reduce technological, economic or social uncertainties by identifying alternative futures and various policy options, make better informed decisions by bringing together different communities of practice with their complementary knowledge and experience, obtain public support by improving transparency, and thus improve overall efficiency of public spending.
Then several RI policy issues are discussed, which can be tackled by foresight, such as policy-co-ordination; use of existing RIs; future needs vs. existing RIs; human resources to operate RIs and exploit RI services. Finally, practical policy recommendations – stemming from of the ForeIntegra project – are presented, addressing EU-level and national decision-makers.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 9
Keywords: Operating, Developing and Utilising Research Infrastructures, Foresight, National and EU Policies
JEL Classification: O38, O39, I23
Date posted: March 6, 2011 ; Last revised: August 29, 2015