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The two most important dimensions for the scoping exercise are the time horizon and the reference system; considering the spatial/regional extension and relevant sectors.

The selection of the time horizon for an ex-ante estimation should be correlated with the life cycle of the RI: from the construction phase, over an intense operational phase (where the RI is a world-class leader in its research field), to the period when it is expected to start fading out as a top RI, and until the end of operation and closing down.

The methods to be used are determined to a large extent by the specific time horizon, (the longer the time horizon, the greater the uncertainty). In many cases, forecasts and other non-disruptive assumptions can be used as reliable tools for short and medium term cycles, however, on longer time horizons, the continuation of current trends is less probable; requiring another kind of prediction of future events and the consideration of alternative scenarios. The longer the time horizon to be considered, the more important the Foresight elements in FenRIAM become.

As well as the specification in time, we also need a specification in space. Spatial scope may refer to a small region as reference, a larger region, a country or the European Union as whole. In general the area of impact to be considered should be relevant for the authorities investing in the RI. A larger area of reference (e.g. country, EU) may simplify the analysis in certain terms (e.g. considering total jobs created), but may also dilute the RI impact (e.g. the multiplication effect may become insignificant at EU level).

Physical space (locality) can impact different types of stakeholders depending on their specific size, products, community, for example local companies who serve mainly the local communities will have a very narrow geographical spread, while the scientific community tends, by its very nature, to be international.

Although the competing RIs act in the same region they may have a different set of stakeholders both at regional level and at larger national and international scales. Therefore, it is important to identify the commonalities and differences in this respect in order to prepare the final assessment.

Figure. Spatial and sectorial system of reference.