General Knowledge
Glenn Lyons and John Urry
Centre for Transport & Society, Faculty of the Built Environment, University of the West of England
Published in
Submitted by
Sibylle Rupprecht
Related theme(s)
Social Development, General
Europe (EU)
United Kingdom

Foresight: the place of social science in examining the future of transport


Until recently a predominant assumption of policymaking has appeared to be that transport exists to serve society. Yet in practice transport shapes society and is shaped by it. Thus transport should be seen to support society. These are subtle but significant distinctions. In January 2006 the OSI’s Foresight Programme launched the report of its examination of the future of transport to a 2055 horizon, entitled Intelligent Infrastructure Futures. The project and its reporting are receiving widespread interest across government departments. ‘Intelligent Infrastructure’ could easily imply a dominant physical science and technology flavour to the initiative with a here to serve mentality. However, two of the four ‘science experts’ enlisted for the study were chosen to represent social science or ‘society’. In turn five from 18 science reviews commissioned as part of the study concerned ‘society’. The outcome has been a consideration of the future as strongly shaped by social context as by technological possibility. This paper provides a brief summary of the Foresight Programme and its role in informing policy. An overview of the structure and outcomes of the transport study is given with specific discussion of how social science input has shaped the study. What emerges strongly is that ‘intelligence’ is not a trait attributable to science and technology but is demonstrated through how they are used in a social and behavioural context.