Indicators: tools for informing, monitoring or controlling?

Lehtonen, Markku (2015) Indicators: tools for informing, monitoring or controlling? In: Jordan, Andrew J and Turnpenny, John R (eds.) The Tools of Policy Formulation: Actors, Capacities, Venues and Effects. New Horizons in Public Policy . Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA, pp. 76-99. ISBN 9781783477036

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Today, indicators are produced and used worldwide; across all levels and sectors of society; by public, private and civil society actors; for a variety of purposes, ranging from knowledge-provision to administrative control. While the use of quantitative data as policy support, including policy formulation, has a long history, recent decades have seen the rise of what some have called an ‘indicator industry’ (for example, Hezri and Hasan 2004), focused especially on the production of environmental and sustainability indicators, within a framework variously called ‘governance by numbers' (Miller 2001; Lascoumes and Le Galès 2005; Jackson 2011), ‘management by numbers’ in public service (for example, Hood 2007) or ‘numbers discourse’ (Jackson 2011, p. 23). Indicators are generally expected to enhance the rationality of policymaking and public debate by providing a supposedly more objective, robust, and reliable information base. Indicators can operate as ‘boundary objects’ (for example, Turnhout 2009; Star 2010), catering to both technocratic and deliberative ideals, by combining ‘hard facts’ and modelling with collective reasoning and ‘speculation’.

Research and development work in the area has hitherto overwhelmingly concentrated on improving the technical quality of indicators, while the fate of indicators in policymaking and the associated sociopolitical aspects have attracted little attention. This chapter focuses on this neglected area of indicator research, by providing an overview of the multiple types of existing indicators, as well as their use and influence in various venues of policymaking. Empirical examples are drawn mainly from the fields of environmental and sustainability indicators.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Indicators, role of knowledge, policy formulation, policy tools, unpredictable effects, informational governance
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Depositing User: Markku Lehtonen
Date Deposited: 18 May 2015 10:04
Last Modified: 18 May 2015 10:04

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