IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Magazine - October 2019 - 18

Transdisciplinary R&D
Futurology Techniques
Scientists and technologists need
Futurology provides a range of
Scientists and
not only skills that differ from prealternative techniques, from imagtechnologists need
transdisciplinary R&D but a differination and envisioning to coment outlook as well (see Table 1)
plex trend analysis and extrapnot only skills that
[14]. These include an understando l a t i o n (s e e Ta b l e 2 ) [15]. I n
differ from preing of and a commitment to transaddition, the conceptual, design,
disciplinarity goals, practices,
and specification phases incorpotransdisciplinary
and outcomes. They also involve
rate a number of these futurology
R&D but a different
embracing the excitement and bentechniques to envision, evaluate,
outlook as well.
efits as well as the uncertainties
and select/discard possible, proband risks of being among those
able, and preferable/undesirable
who create new paths that others
future scenarios.
will follow rather than following
existing trails that others have already established. PerDesigning Future Hypothetical and
haps the most challenging of all, they further entail the
Theoretical Transdisciplinary Systems
responsibility of defining not just a new domain of
The president of the IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics
research but a fundamentally different form of research
Society expressed interest in two of my peer-reviewed
relative to the historically dominant multidisciplinary and
papers as exemplars of transdisciplinary research relevant
interdisciplinary protocols.
to the Society's technical scope. The following summaries

Table 1. The disciplinarity modes.
Mode

Disciplinarity*

Domain Separation

Transdisciplinary

Integrates different disciplines and transcends traditional boundaries by creating
new conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and translational innovation

Low to none

Interdisciplinary

Analyzes, synthesizes, and harmonizes links between disciplines into a coordinated
and coherent whole

Medium

Multidisciplinary

Draws on knowledge from different disciplines but stays within their boundaries

High

*Disciplinarity is the structure of knowledge specialization [14].
Note: Bold is used to highlight the focus of this article.

Table 2. The key futurology techniques.
Technique

Definition

Backcasting

Envisioning a future scenario and defining measures needed to achieve or prevent that scenario

Modified delphi

Reviewing publications and expert statements regarding a given scenario's likelihood, potential
impact, and time frame as well as the possible effects of trends and other variables

Scanning

Identifying emerging trends by surveying research papers, media, literature, and other sources

Scenario

Managing present uncertainty by framing perceptions about alternate future environments that
might be impacted by decisions made in the present

Technological forecasting

Projecting when future technologies may be possible

Technology foresight

Identifying both emergent and convergent technologies that are likely to create the greatest
socioeconomic benefits by envisioning long-term science and technology future scenarios

Trend analysis and extrapolation

Identifying an ongoing change based on historical data and observation

Visioning

Making images of the future sufficiently real and compelling to allow them to act as goals

Techniques in bold are those primarily employed in the transdisciplinary papers discussed in the section "Envisioning Future Hypothetical and Theoretical
Transdisciplinary Systems" [15].

18

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IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Magazine - October 2019

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