Coordination and support action

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coordination and support action

D4.1 Report on Weak signals collection

European Commission Seventh Framework Project (IST-257822)

Deliverable D4.1

Report on Weak Signals Collection

Edited by:

Contributions by: Adam Cooper, Christian Voigt, Elisabeth Unterfrauner, Milos Kravcik, Jan Pawlowski, Henri Pirkkalainen

Dissemination level: Public

Delivery date: 31st of July, 2011

Work Package

WP4- Weak Signals Analysis – Emerging reality

Dissemination Level



V Adam.1


31st of July, 2011

Amendment History







Bare template with first draft contributions.



Methodologies & Delphi Interviews
Template - Headings numbered (MS Word)



Dynamic Influence Network Models




Adam Cooper

IEC, University of Bolton, UK

Christian Voigt, Elisabeth Unterfrauner

ZSI, Vienna, Austria

Milos Kravcik

RWTH, Aachen, Germany

Henri Pirkkalainen, Jan Pawlowski

JYU, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents 2

1 Introduction 4

2 What is a weak signal? 5

3 Methodology 12

4 Human Sources Stream: Starting Interview Round 36

5 Recorded Sources Stream: Identifying Emerging and Fading Terms 48

6 Conclusions 78

7 Appendix A – Raw Report - “Naive Method” Conference Abstracts 82

8 References 117


When talking about forecasting and about future studies the term “weak signals” (with its implication of being able to identify the very first signs that something will becomes significant, like a change of paradigm or technology in TEL) is recurrently mentioned but although there is already a history of weak signal collection the definition as well as the methodology to be used is somewhat unclear.

“Weak Signals” is a rather fashionable term used in parts of the future-watching community, although it is an ill-defined term as evidenced by the lack of a specific entry in Wikipedia. There is an air of mystique and magic about Weak Signals Analysis.

On the one hand, the importance of collecting weak signals seems very convincing as it allows businesses or fields of research for detecting opportunities that are not mainstream yet and thus give the organisation the chance to be ahead of others. On the other hand, scepticism arises from the difficulties to define the term besides other challenges weak signal research has to face.

The aim of this document is to clarify our understanding of Weak signals in the context of TEL and to define a methodology and a plan how to capture these signals from variety of sources. The approach undertaken as well as the results will support the roadmapping of TEL stakeholders in the TEL-Map roadmapping activities. In the context of TEL-Map, weak signals are being identified through three approaches (described in chapter 3). The approaches include:

  • Delphi study

  • Semantic analysis
  • Analysis of influence networks

First results are included for the first two approaches in this deliverable. The third approach of influence networks analysis will be studied further in WP4 while this deliverable demonstrates how this approach has been applied in a different domain.

The structure of the document is the following. Chapter 2 describes our understanding of Weak signals. Chapter 3 describes the methodology (the three approaches mentioned previously) for capturing weak signals. Chapters 4 and 5 introduce the main approaches for capturing these signals. Finally chapter 6 summarizes and compares the initial results of the weak signals collection process.

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