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What Expertise/Knowledge is Needed in Scenario Development?

A broad awareness of what is happening in the world is a basic requirement for any scenario developer. Useful information can come from the existing literature, statistics, news programmes, experience or conversations with experts and non-professionals. Scenario developers are often interdisciplinary generalists, interested in history, as well as economic, physical and social processes. They should be able to work directly with real world decision takers or with scenario consultants/trainers, and translate scenario findings into practical and robust policy recommendations. In addition, awareness is needed about the way in which individuals select and discard information without being aware of doing so. As far as possible, scenario developers should be aware of their own biases and be as reflexive and open-minded as possible. Scenario developers are trained in finding key trends and imagining attitudes of key players. They analyse flows and what factors may disrupt them. Where knowledge is lacking or inconclusive, value-laden opinions become an inevitable part of a scenario exercise. Ideological questions regularly arise in scenario-based policy formulation processes. For example, is market liberalization or more government regulation the best way forward?

Surveys, workshops and Delphi methods are techniques that can help generate future expectations shared by a larger group. According to Swart et al. (2004), a successful scenario study requires a sufficiently large group of participants and adequate time for problem definition, knowledge-based development, iterative scenario analysis, and for review and outreach. The development of coherent, engaging stories about the future, including potential surprise events or seeds of change, has to place the focal problem in a broader context. Last but not least, it is vital to be clear for whom scenarios are made and for which purpose. Normative judgements and political worldviews have to be made explicit in scenario development (Metzger et al. 2010).

Successful scenario development meets three fundamental characteristics (Alcamo and Henrichs 2008). Credibility refers to the scientific rigour and internal coherence of the scenario. Legitimacy is linked to the scenario development process. Finally, saliency refers to the appropriateness of scenarios in responding to information needs. These criteria can be further specified as follows (Rounsevell and Henrichs 2008):


• addressing the subjectivity of scenario developers and stakeholders involved (biases, prejudices, expectations, ideology);

• quantifying uncertainty in scenario assumptions (differences in drivers' uncertainty or in interpretation of stakeholders' inputs);

• quantifying uncertainty within models (data, calibration).


• including stakeholder participatory approaches can help to facilitate societal acceptance;

• ensuring transparency and traceability of the scenario development process and its political context (aim, who built it/funded it).


• designing scenario processes that ensure relevance to the policy question and stakeholder perspectives (for example, stakeholder participation, focal questions, and so on);

• stimulating and capturing creativity, by allowing the exploration of 'surprises';

• presenting and communicating scenarios in an accessible manner.

These criteria are not, however, necessarily followed in practice (see below) (Rounsevell and Henrichs 2008).

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