Letter: Future goals

June 15, 2001

When, despite being far ahead in the premiership, Roy Keane remarked after Manchester United's defeat in the European Cup: "We are just not good enough", some commentators began to question the belief that the English League is the best in Europe.

Could we be suffering from similar delusions in thinking that "Europe's leading futurist" is also a Brit? ("That's so last century", THES , June 8).

Claimants to the title in France are: Michel Godet and colleagues at the Laboratory for Investigation in Prospective and Strategy; Hughes de Jouvenel of the Association Internationale Futuribles; and futures work at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Unesco.

In Spain, the European Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, which is staffed from member states, produces a regular report and runs a futures project. The president of the European Commission has a futures unit. In Denmark, there is the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies and in Finland most universities are affiliated to the Finnish Futures Academy. With few exceptions - Prest (policy research in engineering, science and technology) at Manchester, SPRU (science policy research unit) at Sussex and the Shell scenario work - the United Kingdom is a recent player. We have the Foresight programme, the Tomorrow project and potentially an Institute of Future Studies, but to claim we lead Europe is as questionable as the United States claiming the World Series.

Graham H. May
Principal lecturer in futures research
Leeds Metropolitan University

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