Modified Policy Delphi

About John Sulston Project Narrative Project Aims Modified Policy Delphi Importance

The Delphi method is a structured, facilitated process of group communication originally developed by RAND Corporation. The design allows expert stakeholders from diverse locations and areas of expertise to interactively forecast the impact of emerging technology. Unlike a traditional Delphi, a policy Delphi does not aim to achieve consensus, as complete agreement on complex policy issues is an unrealistic expectation. A modified policy Delphi adds qualitative approaches to the traditional process of iterative stakeholder surveys, including interviews and peer-to-peer discussions.

The Sulston Project is employing a modified policy Delphi process with a panel of experts (advisory committee (AC) members) to facilitate structured discussion about challenges to the creation and success of an emerging cancer gene variant commons. The goal of this process is to identify the most important and tractable (feasible to address) non-technical challenges associated with developing a cancer gene variant commons and to explore potential policy options to address those challenges. The results of each round of interactions are analyzed by project staff and the findings arepresented to our expert panel for discussion and to help inform subsequent rounds of the Delphi. As a final step, we are mapping specific policy options to institutions and actors who can act on them.

Our modified policy Delphi consists of four rounds:


Round 1: Identify challenges (Interviews)

Members of the Sulston team conduct semi-structured interviews with AC members to identify a range of non-technical challenges that hinder the development and success of a cancer gene variant commons. Thematic analysis is used to characterize challenges that are then rated and ranked in Round 2.


Round 2: Rate importance, validity and feasibility of each challenge and rank the most important challenges (Delphi survey)

Analysis of the AC interviews (Round 1) yields challenges that AC members are then asked to rate and rank in an online survey in Round 2. Feedback from Round 1 is presented to AC members by structuring the survey to include background information about each challenge, summarized from the interview data.


Round 3: Generate policy options to address high priority challenges (Virtual Meeting)

During a virtual meeting with AC members and project staff, Round 2 survey results are presented and discussed, and structured peer-to-peer discussion is used to generate policy options to address the top-ranking challenges identified in Round 2. The research team qualitatively analyzes the data and refines suggested policy options for rating and ranking in Round 4. Additional policy options are gathered from literature reviews and Aim 1 case studies.


Round 4: Rate importance, validity and feasibility of each policy option and rank the most important policy options (Delphi survey)

The results of Round 3 are presented to AC members and informal feedback is sought on the list of policy options generated. The final proposed policy options for each high-ranking challenge are presented to AC members to rate and rank in an online survey. AC members are asked to specify which institution or actor is best positioned to act on each proposed policy option.


This final phase of the modified policy Delphi process produces a list of policy options that are linked to target audiences that might act on them, such as: research organizations, government agencies, clinical care providers, national trade and laboratory organizations, professional and scientific organizations, committees of Congress or state legislative bodies, or other “receptors.” Serial engagement using the Delphi process with the AC allows us to identify these relevant constituencies and map them to the policy options ranked most important and feasible to address.

Click here to go back up top