Method reflection involves discussing what methods would be appropriate for providing knowledge on the problem, as framed in the collaborative situation analysis.
This is necessary firstly for searching for current and available evidence that may help to address the problem (see assessment review), and secondly if the TranSTEP group decides that new assessments or dialogical activities are needed, since then they will also have to design such new actions.
In a TranSTEP group there will be no agreed routine method to be used; the different participants may have different views on what methods would be appropriate. This is a benefit, as it allows for a transparent and reflective method discussion in the group, which in the end may yield more robust judgements than method choices based on implicit conventions or institutional traditions.
In order to ensure the wide consideration of methods, we recommend that the secretariat presents a comprehensive list of methodological options to the TranSTEP group: Methods and domains. Method reflection can also be helped by the assessment tool DoingForesight.
Based on the situation analysis discussion the participants may have clear and common ideas of what knowledge or actions are needed to answer the issue. However, the following questions can be useful for the group to consider:
- Is there a need for knowledge on general technology developments or on specific applications?
- Is there a need to identify broader policy options or simply one given option?
- Is there a need to consider the effects of important policy trends (such as liberalism and internationalisation)?
- Is there a need to integrate at a data level?
- Is there a need to integrate values or narratives?
- Is there a need to involve stakeholders or the public in assessments or deliberative events about the issue?
- Is there a need for systematic reflection on future consequences of the use of the technology?
- Is there a need to embed the discussion of the issue better in its policy context (considering political/regulatory issues alongside technical issues)?
- What are available toolboxes for responding to the problem, and which tools from these toolboxes should be chosen?
- What should characterise the method chosen?
- What dialogue points would be important in the interaction between policy makers, stakeholders and the public on the issue?
Outcome of method reflection: Once these questions and the diversity of available methods have been considered, the secretariat of the TranSTEP group can search for available assessments providing evidence on the issue. This will allow for targeted assessment review. The outcome of method reflection regarding a new assessment activity is a rough concept on the aim and preferred methods of this new assessment, allowing for a detailed assessment design and conduct.