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National environmental indicators: measuring what matters?. Elisabeth A. Graffy ASU -- March 30, 2007. Guideposts. Summarize a national initiative to design a national indicator system Purpose, Participants, Process Focus in on challenges, tensions, paradoxes

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national environmental indicators measuring what matters

National environmental indicators: measuring what matters?

Elisabeth A. Graffy

ASU -- March 30, 2007

guideposts
Guideposts
  • Summarize a national initiative to design a national indicator system
    • Purpose, Participants, Process
  • Focus in on challenges, tensions, paradoxes
  • Discuss current and potential role(s) for academia
why design a system for national environmental indicators
Why design a system for national environmental indicators?
  • Respond to claims of unmet needs for national indicators in policy, management, and public discourse.
  • Despite many indicator efforts and assessments, knowledge remains
    • Fragmented and incomplete
    • Inaccessible
    • Incomplete and/or not sufficiently relevant
    • Of mixed quality and trustworthiness
some leading u s indicator efforts
Some leading U.S. indicator efforts
  • Heinz Center: State of the Nation’s Ecosystems
  • NAS Key National Indicator Initiative (aka State of the USA)
  • EPA’s Report on the Environment
  • Sustainable Resource Roundtables (4)
  • GAO and OSTP report dozens of federal assessments, indicator systems
  • (Global, state, local, corporate efforts)
rationale for a national system
Rationale for a national system

“The Nation does not now produce complete, consistent, and credible statistics and indicators about environmental conditions and trends that are needed to guide government and business decisions and to inform public discourse.”

major participants in dialogue
Major participants in dialogue
  • Federal agencies
    • CEQ, EPA, DOI, NOAA, USDA-NRCS, FS
    • Indirect: GAO
  • Non-federal entities
    • Heinz Center, State of the USA, NCSE
    • State and local government
    • University and Business
  • National Academy of Public Administration
participants emerged over time
Participants emerged over time

CEQ

Interagency Indicator

Coordination

Academic

Inputs

Federal Agencies:

DOI, EPA, USDA, FS, NOAA

Corporate

Inputs

Roundtables:

Forests, Rangelands

Minerals, Water

Agency

Reports

Heinz State of the

Nation’s Ecosystems

NAS KNII

Stakeholders

& Experts

Stakeholders

& Experts

Collaborative Process

Congressional

Inputs

Collaboration on Indicators on the Nation’s Environment and Natural Resources (CINE) Planning Group

common aspirational goal
Common aspirational goal

Complete, credible, and consistently reliable

  • National (scalable)
  • Routinely used by policy-makers, businesses, and citizens
  • Increasingly trusted over time
  • Match IT and use/access trends
proposed operational goal

Core National

Indicators

Proposed operational goal

Primary Goal

  • Achieve consensus among diverse partners about selection of Core National Indicators and process for periodic review and updating
  • Ensure consistent production and reporting of these indicators
  • Ensure the reliability of related statistical and data activities

Public

Discourse

Policy, Planning and

Management Indicators

Corollary Responsibilities

  • Align priorities, protocols
  • Support consistency of tiers
  • Promote broad public access

Inventory and Monitoring Data

and Indicators

process of dialogue and design
Process of dialogue and design
  • Several years of intermittent activity
  • Now, coordinated series of meetings
    • Define federal interests and role(s)
    • Define non-federal interests and role(s)
    • Develop agreement on feasible options
    • Develop implementation strategy that successfully accommodates politics, Politics, organizational change….
  • Focus on institutions, not indicators
implied design tensions
Implied design tensions
  • Conceptual
  • Institutional
  • Informational
  • Political
conceptual tensions what are indicators 1
Statistics

Indices

Aggregated data/bu

Question-driven/td

Science-based

Values-based

Policy-defined

Valid, reliable

Fact-based

Comprehensive

Selective

Progress markers

Descriptive - status

Diagnostic - problems

Rational decision tools

“Truth to power”

Dispute resolvers

Myth-dispellers

Collaborative origin

Policy-relevant

Apolitical

Conceptual Tensions: What are indicators? (1)
conceptual tensions what are indicators 2
Dispute enhancers

Translated scientific knowledge

Co-produced/joint knowledge

Boundary objects

Serviceable truths

Usable knowledge

Metaphoric, symbolic

Conceptual Tensions: What are indicators? (2)
a problem
A problem
  • Indicator practitioners may be only loosely aware of the broader (and potentially very broad) intellectual context.
  • Disciplinary theorists may be only loosely aware of potentially broad intellectual context and opportunities to contribute.
conceptual tensions what are indicators for

Policy, Planning and Management

Indicators

Inventory and Monitoring

Data and Indicators

Conceptual Tensions: What are indicators for?

Public Understanding

Social Learning, Action

Synthesis, narrative

Fusion of technical, cultural, economic, spiritual, …

Salient Topics

Core

National

Indicators

Public Understanding

Social Learning, Action

Parameters of legitimized common knowledge

Accountability to specified

goals

Data collection

Expand frontiers of knowledge

Relation of Indicator Type to Potential Social Functions

conceptual tensions who are indicators for

Inventory And Monitoring Data and Indicators

Conceptual Tensions: Who are indicators for?

Salient

Topics

Generally Informed Public

Core National

Indicators

Public and People with

Topic or Issue Interests

Policy, Planning

And Management

Indicators

Managers

And

Policy Wonks

Scientists

Relation of Indicator Types to Potentially Interested People

conceptual tensions independence relevance politicization
Conceptual Tensions: Independence, relevance, & politicization
  • Do environmental condition indicators relate to program planning, performance?
  • Should indicators address “hot” issues?
  • Should indicators be about ecological only or economic and social aspects, too?
  • Should indicators encompass condition only or causes and implications, too?
  • “Build it & they will come” or “build to suit”?
  • What are the real risks and for whom?
institutional tensions hydra
Institutional Tensions: Hydra
  • Existing programs are dispersed, autonomous
    • 58 Heinz national indicators used data from 20 Federal programs in 15 agencies in 6 departments
    • Decentralized by historical design (eg., fires)
  • Many co-existing missions with constituencies
    • How much change is needed and acceptable?
  • Federal and non-federal interests exist
    • What roles, rights, authorities can/do each assume?
  • Science and policy domains are inevitable
    • What model(s) guide(s) this interface or boundary?
institutional tensions language
Institutional Tensions: Language
  • Institutional arrangements: defined roles and responsibilities, not an “agency”
  • Vision: the aspiration
  • Goal: the concrete results to be achieved
  • Critical Functions: tasks/abilities/activities that are minimally necessary for goals
  • Design: the process of defining roles and responsibilities
  • Criteria: enables goal-based comparison and evaluation of design options
informational tensions drip
Informational Tensions: DRIP
  • A lot of information --uncoordinated, fragmented, unaligned, incomplete
    • Heinz Center Report:½ of 103 indicators w/data
  • More data are collected than analyzed
    • Redundancy and inquiry vs. targeted needs and scarce resources?
  • What is “national” about an indicator?
    • Geographic scale, iconic value, ecological uniqueness, “sentinel”, constituency
      • Everglades, bald eagle, children, mercury, bees, Lake Tahoe, Sky Islands
political tensions first steps
Political Tensions: First Steps
  • Poor understanding of conditions for
    • Acceptance by involved entities
    • Legitimacy in all relevant sectors
    • Authority sufficient for functional capacity
    • Ability to weather administrations, Congresses, and controversies
  • Lessons from other cases, literature, and consultations is inconclusive
  • Default stance: incremental, low-risk
    • Loss of relevance or long-term viability?
role s for academia
Role(s) for academia
  • Take a broad view of whose research matters: natural sciences, organizational change & strategy, sociology, public affairs, law, political theory, science policy, resource management, communication, history, media
  • Help develop common concepts, terminology, methods
  • Promote innovation and experimentation that links theory and practice
role s for academia1
Role(s) for academia
  • Why bother?
    • Growth areas for research
    • Differentiates and prepares students
    • May have real-world impact