IEA Training Manual - Module 5

4.4.1 Working with indicators

Indicators commonly are used to illustrate and substantiate statements made in assessments. The choice of indicators determines the kinds of data needed for an IEA, helping to structure and guide data collection. When choosing an indicator, it is important to select one that both demonstrates something important about the themes and issues, and one that can be clearly communicated. When selected and used properly, and where data are available, indicators can offer:

  • Characterization of historic trends related to priority issues.
  • Spatial patterns of change.
  • Analysis of progress relative to targets/benchmarks/reference values.

Examples of indicators for a driver and environmental state are described in Figures 7 and 8, respectively.

To avoid selecting indicators haphazardly, we use selection criteria. For example, indicators should:

  • Be developed within an accepted conceptual framework.
  • Be clearly defined and easy to understand.
  • Be subject to aggregation.
  • Be objective.
  • Have reasonable data requirements.
  • Be relevant to users.
  • Be limited in number.
  • Reflect causes, processes or results (World Bank 1997).

The management community has developed the SMART criteria for indicator selection. Under this system, indicators should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Aggressive but achievable targets
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound
Figure 11:General template for
presenting indicators.

Criteria like these are useful, but they are not a guarantee that the indicators selected will be the most meaningful to any given audience. Quality control needs to be built into the discussions with stakeholders not only for individual indicators but also for the entire set, to ensure that indicators are useful in subsequent analysis and to help substantiate trends within and connections among drivers, states and responses (See Module 4 to learn more about data and indicators).

Indicators should be presented with information that helps interpretation. A sample template is shown in Figure 11 (Source: Pintér, Zahedi and Cressman. 2000).

See Exercise 5.4.4.1

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Module 5 - Integrated analysis of environmental trends and policies
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