Fusion Confidence Monitor

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Posted by Rezwan Razani on Mar 07, 2012 at 09:50 AM
What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments below!

Inspired by the HSBC Climate Confidence Monitor (“CCM”), we propose a Fusion Confidence Monitor.

Developing a “Confidence Monitor”

A “confidence monitor” can be a useful policy tool. It can be used to assess readiness for action or policy change.

Structurally, it’s just a survey that measures and analyzes 4 parameters: concern, commitment, optimism and confidence.  Here is a pdf copy of the Climate Confidence Monitor.

We’d like to take a similar approach to confidence in fusion research, and more specifically, fusion research management. Initial respondents would be fusion researchers. This may be broken down by subcategory of research approach.

The survey is simple. Several statements are listed. The respondents put down, from one to seven, how strongly they agree or disagree with the statements.

Coming up with revealing statements for the field of fusion is our first order of business. Below, look at the statements used by the CCM, and brainstorm statements that we can use for fusion.

Concern

CCM: ‘climate change is the biggest issue I worry about today’.

Fusion: ‘adequate recognition, support and funding for the most promising approaches to fusion is the biggest issue I worry about in my field’

Committment

CCM: ‘Personally making a significant effort to reduce climate change’

Fusion: ‘I (my research) am making a significant effort to solve the fusion problem by any means necessary.’

Additional questions for CCM were:

priorities for spending public money vs. climate change: lower priority, same priority, higher priority.

They then broke this down against different public expenditures such as climate change vs. health care, crime, university funding, supporting the economy in a downturn and national defense. National defense was the lowest priority.

For fusion, we could compare priorities against other energy approaches, or other futuristic funding projects, like lunar landings.

Optimism

CCM: ‘Belief that climate change will be stopped.’

Fusion: ‘Belief that eventually, practical net energy from fusion can be developed’ (apply this to the different approaches)

The CCM survey followed up the optimism question by asking what actions were taken by optimists vs. pessimists. While both groups turned off the lights when not in use and recycled, optimists were much more likely to fund environmental projects and drive a hybrid car. In other words, optimists spend money.

Confidence

CCM: ‘Those who should be doing something about climate change are doing so.’

Fusion: ‘those who should be researching the promising approaches to fusion are doing so.’

Notably, in the CCM, this is a question about the leadership. So, is there an identifiable fusion leadership? Is it doing what it should be doing?

The follow up CCM question related to different actions the leadership was supposed to be taking. Desired approach to emissions reduction target: not try to reduce, reduce gradually without trying to meet target, meet target, exceed target.

A related question about fusion would be about funding the various projects. Diverse project funding target: just focus on tokomak and NIF, include a few others, try to get all the alternatives…Also important to have an estimate of how much more $ you would need for these targets each year.

Final Policy Question

The CCM ended their survey with the question: ‘How important is it to reach a deal in the UN climate negotiations?’ - 65% said it was very important.

Fusion: ‘How important is it to reach a deal on comprehensive fusion funding - funding for alternatives?’

Next Action Steps

This is a pretty simple survey. If we run it by the bulk of fusion researchers and get a vision of cautious optimism and a need for more funding, it may be useful for countering all the negative press out there and encouraging more funding.

Our next steps are thus,

  • Develop a survey - asking the right questions
  • distribute to the fusion community
  • compile & analyze
  • Use to promote the “more funding for fusion alternatives policy” (provided that’s what the outcome of this process is. The alternative is to relax and let it go on - business as usual).

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