The Delphi method was originally developed in the 50s by the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California. This approach consists of a survey conducted in two or more rounds and provides the participants in the second round with the results of the first so that they can alter the original assessments if they want to - or stick to their previous opinion. Nobody ‘looses face’ because the survey is done anonymously using a questionnaire (the first Delphis were panels). It is commonly assumed that the method makes better use of group interaction (Rowe et al. 1991, Häder/Häder 1995) whereby the questionnaire is the medium of interaction (Martino 1983). The Delphi method is especially useful for long-range forecasting (20-30 years), as expert opinions are the only source of information available. Meanwhile, the communication effect of Delphi studies and therefore the value of the process as such is also acknowledged. During the last ten years, the Delphi method was used more often especially for national science and technology foresight. Some modifications and methodological improvements have been made, meanwhile. Nevertheless, one has to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the method so that it cannot be applied in every case. It is useful for an assessment of new things to come and in cases, which can be explained very shortly. This means for complex themes, it is better to use other methodologies like scenarios and to take into account what Delphi results can provide as single information pieces. Thus, Delphi studies were mainly applied in science, technology and education contexts, but one can think of different occasions. Delphi studies are rather complex procedures and require some resources depending on the breadth of the study planned. Delphi studies are processes that include the preparation, a survey in two or more rounds and some analyses and application (implementation) when the survey is finished. All three phases are important and are addressed during the course. For the preparation phase and the implementation, some practical exercises in small groups are conducted so that the participants gain a feeling for a Delphi procedure.
Prepared by Kerstin Cuhls, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Germany
What are Delphi procedures?
On the History of Delphi
The Delphi method belongs to the subjective-intuitive methods of foresight. Delphi was developed in the 1950's by the Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California, in operations research. The name can be traced back to the Delphic oracle, as Woudenberg (1991, p. 132) reports that the name 'Delphi' was intentionally coined by Kaplan, an associate professor of philosophy at the UCLA working for the RAND corporation in a research effort directed at improving the use of expert pre-dictions in policy-making. Kaplan et al. (1950, p. 94) referred to the 'principle of the oracle' as a 'non-falsifyable prediction', a statement that does not have the property of being 'true' or 'false'. Thus 'Delphi' for the modern foresight method seems to be more than a simple brand name.
The foundation of the temple at Delphi and its oracle took place before recorded history. Thanks to archeologists and historians we have extensive knowledge on the functions and benefits of the oracle (Parke/ Wormell 1956). For a thousand years of recorded history the Greeks and other peoples, sometimes as private individuals, sometimes as official ambassadors, came to Delphi to consult the prophetess, who was called Pythia. Her words were taken to reveal the rules of the Gods. These prophecies were not usually intended simply to be a prediction of the future as such. Pythia’s function was to tell the divine purpose in a normative way in order to shape coming events.
One should consider that the Delphi monastery was one of the very few spots on the earth where knowledge was accumulated, ordered and...
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Social Change, vol. 40, pp. 131 – 150.
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