Bell, Simon and Morse, Stephen
An analysis of the factors influencing the use of indicators in the European Union.
Local Environment, 16(3) pp. 281–302.
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Indicators and indices (I&I) have been popular among a section of the policy and science communities for some years and are often promoted as a vehicle to help make sustainable development a reality. One of the claimed strengths of I&I is their ability to present complex data and trends to policy-makers. It is assumed that I&I can help to make policy and, indeed, management more transparently evidence based; yet this assumption has rarely been tested. This paper describes the results of a research project designed to address this assumption. Three main conclusions were arrived at:
(1) I&I are not static measures that are created and remain constant but instead they change with time as a result of a “natural selection” process;
(2) there is value in a move away from the dominance of a limited number of I&I in policy towards a more diverse set of I&I, but there are many obstacles to achieving this; and
(3) the evidence-based rationality of which I&I are meant to be a constituent does not exist. I&I are but one source of influence among many. Indeed, what is meant by “success” with regard to a policy influence of I&I is debatable.
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