Istishraf is an annual peer-reviewed journal (ISSN 2413-4449) produced by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS). This latest addition to the ACRPS periodical series aspires to fill a major gap in Arab knowledge production represented by the need for a peer-reviewed Arab journal in the field of future studies. Although forecasting and future studies have existed in the Arab region for decades, the corpus of material already published in this field calls for a critical, methodical approach to improve the quality of output. In addition to its academic function, Istishraf will further serve to promote development in the Arab states and strive toward a better understanding of factors and trends affecting Arab development.
Only a handful of widescale future studies from the Arab world – be they national or regional – can be classified as academic future studies. Today, by means of an interrogation of the horizon they defined and scenarios they set out, it is possible to build on the wealth of existing material and to contribute to improve the processes of development in the field of future studies. Past projects and sectorial programs along with individual efforts by Arab specialists and academics have led to an accumulation of knowledge in this field. This can be seen in the collective academic endeavors to address the relationship between development and forecasting in the region; the production of excellent studies in this field and the incorporation of future studies as a category for serious Arab academic research prizes; its inclusion within some university departments and disciplines in the region and the formation of a group of centers for futurological research of varying scope, seriousness and effectiveness. These accomplishments confirm the existence of an environment receptive towards the goals of this journal, and the potential to enrich the field of futurology with concerted efforts from experts and researchers active in the Arab world.
Like the rest of the social sciences, forecasting remains a discipline constantly in formation and under development. Because of its newness, its early adoption of a synthetic, integrative, and interdisciplinary methodological strategy, and its tendency for innovation, future studies is perhaps the newest discipline within the social sciences. The major developments in this field have thus depended on the synthesis between descriptive, quantitative, and qualitative techniques. In this respect, futurology may be no different to the other social and human sciences. Its relative difference, however, is demarcated in the quantitative descriptive techniques it has adopted—even if derived from other disciplines—having been reformulated, and in the other flexible techniques it has developed. This raises questions concerning how to use these techniques, and what they mean for planners and future forecasters – a key concern of this journal.
Ishtishraf thus aspires to provide a serious, adjudicated, academic platform for Arab researchers and thinkers interested in questions of forecasting and future studies that ensures the continuity of this interest and develops it by bringing in new generations of young Arab researchers. Through this journal, the ACRPS aims to instill the concept of forecasting at the heart of the region's development process by heightening the awareness of planners, decision makers, strategy formulators, and policymakers in the importance of future studies. In parallel, it aims at the institutional development of Arab associations and societies interested in this field, leading to the foundation of an Arab Academy for Future Studies, and the convening of annual academic conferences on issues pertaining to the future of the Arab homeland.
In publishing a journal on future studies the ACRPS took into account the following factors:
- The need to consolidate and develop Arab contributions to this field, and work to create new academic generations to continue and build upon this, together with knowledge investment to develop curricula for future studies and enlighten public and private awareness of the importance of forecasting.
- The ACRPS's commitment to support efforts of transformation in light of its long term vision of advancing Arab states. The main driver behind the social sciences is known to be social change, and among the noblest aims of these sciences—including future studies—is the provision and consolidation of freedom.
- Future studies was born out of modern social science as a discipline independent from forecasting, assessments, and simple intuitive hypotheses in the aftermath of the major world financial and economic crisis of 1926 for the United States and after the Nazi occupation for France. The major structural crisis facing Arab societies today dictates the consolidation of this discipline.
- The stage of major social transformation currently experienced by the Arab world raises radical questions about previous development models. It also generates ideas, puts forward hypotheses, and demands the study of problems about alternative development models to be developed and implemented in future by scrutinizing potential and possible alternatives.
From this starting point, Istishraf aspires to give future studies methodological roots and establish and test its techniques, giving this dimension of future studies the required attention it deserves. Researchers will also grasp the importance of adopting these techniques in their work, of concentrating on studies that use these techniques and of forming interdisciplinary research teams. As an annual publication, Istishraf aspires to raise thorny questions in the area of the development process, the nature of the relationship between forecasting and general and long-term planning, and between planning, strategy, and policy.
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