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Mapping Weak Signals

Inspired by: FP7 » Growing interest in wild cards and weak signals research

version: 11 / updated: 2011-02-25
id: #1687 / version id: #154
mode: VIEW

Originally submitted by: Rafael Popper
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Last changed by: Rafael Popper
WI-WE status:

Source of inspiration

European Commission Framework Programme for RTD (FP7)

Theme/activity of inspiration

Theme 8 - Socio-economic Sciences and the Humanities

Sub-theme/area of inspiration

Blue Sky Research on emerging issues and other research economies

Optional reference/s to FP7 project/s

Use the following format: Project Acronym (Project Reference No.). Use commas if more than one project is associated to this Wild Card, for example: ALFA-BIRD (213266), SAFAR (213374), LAPCAT-II (211485)
iKNOW (225695)

Uploaded reports, images or pictures related to the Weak Signal

File name File type File size
iknow_logo.jpg image 641953 open

Signal's headline

(max. 9 words)
Growing interest in wild cards and weak signals research

Signal's description

(approx. 150 words)
Please describe the Weak Signal (approx. 150 words)
Growing interest in understanding low-perceived probability and high-impact events (wild cards) and bewildering (weak signals) events, and other topics that are hard to forecast. Growing recognition of importance of uncertain and low-probability events: reflects trend for these to become more prevalent or disruptive of established policies and programmes. EC funds research on wild cards and weak signals. EC Directorate General Research under the Seventh Framework Programme theme eight (Socioeconomic sciences and the Humanities) launches a series of foresight initiatives (such as iKNOW, SESTI, SANDERA, FARHORIZON, INFU and CIVISTI projects) promoting ‘blue sky’ research on emerging issues affecting European science and technology. Growing interest in the study of turbulent times and institutions confronting disruptive change (e.g. post-normal STI policy).


weak signal, wild card, blue sky, early warning, research, policy


(max. 250 characters)
The interest in wild cards and weak signals research has increased the spectrum of issues considered as shapers of science, technology and innovation (STI), and, at the same time, increased the complexity of STI policy intelligence and formulation.

Signal's first apperance


Signal's potential evolution

It could lead to...
issue type of issue/development potential impact on society timeframe for the issue to become at least 50% probable
#1 Major breakthroughs in estimating and assessing wild cards lead to revolution in risk management approaches. new/emerging
mainly beneficial
#2 Wave of interest in between social indicators (revival of “social indicators movement” of the 1970s). re-emerging
mainly beneficial
#3 A significant threat is detected in wild cards and weak signals projects, and this leads to major policy reorientation. continuation
#4 Wild cards and weak signals projects lead to overemphasis on specific types of problem, as is revealed when some completely different sort of problem ends the world (or European Research Area). continuation
very harmful
#5 Challenge to orthodoxy of risk assessment, possibly leading to serious reservations about management procedures instituted for many critical facilities. discontinuation
mainly beneficial

Under what assumption the Weak Signal might evolve.

Wild cards and weak signals research continue on the rise.


please specify
please select
Level 3: important for the European Union

Filters preventing the signal's monitoring

information/communicational filters (media/editorial interests, language, reasoning)
institutional filters (rules, laws, regulations)
political filters (party or ideological interests)

Comments on selection:

Lack of continuation of major institutional efforts to explore and analysis low probably and uncertain events.

Key driving forces of this signal

Please use these boxes to provide up to 2 drivers of HIGH importance. Click on HELP to see examples:
Driver 1 Driver 2
Technological/Scientific Advances in participatory (e.g. web 2.0) and monitoring technologies.
Economic Growing concerns about the health of the economy.
Environmental Growing frequency of natural disasters.

Major risks & opportunities associated to the signal

Please choose the most appropriate timeframe option(s) to which you would like to provide inputs.
Risks Opportunities
before 2015 Growing importance of multidisciplinary research
between 2015-2025 Widespread long-term thinking and resilience culture

Potential stakeholders' actions

short-term actions
(after 2015)
Policy actors (at the international, European and national levels) Encourage wild cards and weak signals scanning and analysis in research and technology development projects. Integrate wild cards and weak signals analysis into policy formulation, policy implementation and policy evaluation practices.
Business actors (incl. SMEs) Monitor weak signals that may potentially become market trends. Identify new business models capable of exploiting wild cards.
Academic/Research sector Introduce the study of wild cards and weak signals theory and practice in undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Include, as part of the abstract or conclusions, the Top 3 or Top 5 wild cards or weak signals associated to academic articles and other publications (e.g. project reports).
Media Report new weak signals and promote public debate about risks and opportunities (including potential wild cards). Monitor the evolution of weak signals and discussion about their different interpretations.

Signal's relevance for European Grand Challenges

where? please justify:
particularly relevant Europe world
Ageing and other demographic tensions
Behavioural change
Coexistence and conflicts
Crime and terrorism
Diseases, health and well-being
Ethics and abuse of S&T
Food security and diet
Governance and trust in democracy
Social pathologies & ethics
Social exclusion & poverty
Social cohesion and diversity
Work-Life balance and mental health
Energy security/dynamics
Economic prosperity/dynamics
Globalization vs. localization
Innovation dynamics
Urban and rural dynamics
Techno-security, hazard & risk
Sustainability and climate change
Water security/vulnerability

Signal's relevance for thematic research areas

please justify:
particularly relevant
Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology
ICT - Information & communication technologies
Nanosciences, nanotech, materials & new prod. tech.
Environment (including Climate Change)
Transport (including aeronautics)
Social Sciences and Humanities
Nuclear research
Research infrastructures
Regional development
Science in society
International S&T Cooperation
Research for the benefit of small & medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

Pan-European strategies influencing the signal

please justify:
particularly relevant
Improving researchers mobility and career development by, for example, realising a single labour market for researchers.
Developing and funding world-class research infrastructures
Strengthening research institutions and universities
Facilitating and promoting knowledge sharing and transfer
Increasing the efficiency and impact of public research through Joint Programming (i.e. combining national and pan-European research efforts) or the optimisation of research programmes and priorities, for example.
Fostering and facilitating coherent international cooperation in science and technology

Research-friendly strategies potentially improving understanding of the signal

For further information about 'research-friendly strategies' click here
please justify:
particularly relevant
Overcoming sub-criticality and systemic failures
To be subcritical means that the effort in a particular field or subfield lacks resources, equipment or a sufficient number of researchers to achieve a desired goal
Strengthening the actors in the research-friendly ecology
(i.e. Research funding organisations, universities, businesses, Research and Technology Organisations, Researchers and Citizens)
Addressing cohesion through a localised articulation between supply and demand
(e.g. making research institutions more engaged with their own context and local users; reinforcing knowledge flows into and out of regions; etc.
Creating a closer link between researchers & policy-makers
(e.g. supporting both thematic and cross-cutting policies, highlighting the strategic purpose of the European Research Area, etc.

Signal's relevance for future R&D and STI policies

Note: RTD = research and technology development; STI = science, technology and innovation
Risk assessment procedures for research may need to be modified. Improved tools required for tracking consequences of technological projects.