SOURCE: Institute for the Future

Institute for the Future

March 06, 2009 09:30 ET

Institute for the Future Launches Global Collaborative Research Platform for Science and Technology

Open-Source Research Tools and Network of Science Professionals Focus on Disruptive Trends and Forecasts Impacting the Future of Science and Technology

PALO ALTO, CA--(Marketwire - March 6, 2009) - The Institute for the Future (IFTF), an independent non-profit research organization, announced today the launch of Signtific (, a global collaborative research platform created to identify and facilitate discussion around future disruptions, opportunities and trends in science and technology. Signtific is completely open, easy to use, and accessible to anyone. The project is designed to leverage the growing network of science and technology experts and grass-roots enthusiasts across the globe through collaborative physical and virtual workshops and engaging alternate reality games. Signtific invites scientists, engineers, designers, researchers, technologists and creative thinkers from any discipline to participate in discussing, dissecting and discovering both nascent and time tested ideas that will shape our future.

"Science today is transforming itself: we're seeing new fields, new centers of global excellence, even changes in what it means to be a scientist," said Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future. "Signtific mirrors this new world of science. It's a global, open laboratory that offers everyone, from leading experts to citizen scientists, the ability to exchange ideas and insights. Through Signtific, they can make sense of future trends and disruptions, explore the futures they can make, and participate in a wide ranging conversation about possible disruptive developments and their impacts. As part of our charter to encourage a systematic thinking about the future, IFTF is particularly proud of this open public-good project."

The foundation for Signtific is the Delta Scan, a groundbreaking IFTF research project conducted for the UK Government's Offices of Science and Innovation between 2006-2008. There were 246 insights or "scans" into the future based on the knowledge of hundreds of specialists drawn from industry and academia recognized as leaders in their fields. "The original insights were gathered via an open Wiki platform and published by the UK Government's Foresight Horizon Scanning Centre, part of the Government Office for Science, currently headed by Professor John Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser. IFTF, with initial seed in funding from U.S. Director of Defense Research & Engineering and the National Academies of Science, has expanded, redesigned, and amplified this collaborative forecasting platform with the launch of Signtific.

"Platforms to support open collaborative scans can help organizations and governments alike identify future risks and opportunities," said Dr. Harry J. Woodruff, Project Leader, Foresight Horizon Scanning Centre, UK Government Office for Science. "We all need to explore the broadest range of different possibilities to help ensure governments and organizations are prepared in the long-term and consider issues across the spectrum in planning for the future."

How Signtific Works

Signtific is comprised of four primary components: a living database or repository of signals (short descriptions of significant changes or emerging issues) and forecasts (larger trends based on analysis of signals); physical and virtual workshops; maps and visualizations showing how trends intersect to create possible futures; and a series of scenarios and alternate reality games (called gamelets), all supported by a community network of young scientists and thought leaders. The expanding topics and areas of research currently include:

Earth & Environment: Green Technology, Sustainability & Climate Change, Earth Systems & Environmental Science

Physical Sciences: Space Science, Physics, Materials, Chemistry, Nanoscience

Social Sciences: Psychology

Interdisciplinary Sciences: Energy, Amateur, DIY, Citizen Science

Life Sciences: Future of Neuroscience, Biomedical Science and Biotech

Health and Medicine: Open Health

Engineering and Technology: Humblefacture, Computer and Information Science

Policy and Governance: Ethics in Science

People and Practices: Structure, Tools, and Platforms of Science, Future of Scientific Communication

Research, Methodology and Development

Created by the Institute for the Future and curated by a team of researchers, science, technology and game designers, Signtific marks an important evolution in the way the Institute develops forecasts about the future. In 2008 IFTF launched Superstruct -- the forecasting platform upon which Signtific and three other collaborative research projects are based -- IFTF's first Massively Mulitplayer Forecasting Game (MMFG). As part of the Institute's efforts to expand future's literacy across a range of topics, IFTF is involved with two additional forecasting programs this year including and

Research Team
Marina Gorbis, Executive Director, Institute for the Future
Cesar Castro, Project Director
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang Ph.D., Research Director
Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research & Development
Matthias Crawford, Project Manager
About the Institute for the Future

About the Institute for the Future

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) is an independent, nonprofit research group with 40 years of forecasting experience. IFTF focuses on identifying emerging trends and discontinuities that will transform global society and the global marketplace. We provide insights into business strategy, design process, innovation, and social dilemmas. Our research generates the foresight needed to create insights that lead to action. Our research spans a broad territory of deeply transformative trends, from health and health care to technology, the workplace, and human identity. The Institute for the Future is located in Palo Alto, CA.

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