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Reliable, relevant and targeted information are essential for the implementation of environmental policies. Indicators provide a tool for collecting, structuring and communicating this information. In the policy process, indicators play an important role as they provide selected, aggregated and interpreted information at various stages of the policy process, show trends and states and thus produce knowledge supporting policy decisions as well as informing the public. In addition to this information and communication function, indicators are used for evaluating and monitoring of policies.
The rational-positivist function of indicators as being a tool for imparting knowledge in the policy process is only one of the various possible analytical approaches. Indicators can also be understood as a tool for describing a problem and to achieve a shared definition of the problem. From another perspective, indicators can also be understood as being political instruments for the implementation of problem definitions and interests. From this perspective, the selection of a particular indicator is a means to emphasize or minimize certain aspects of a problem.
Respectively, the selection of an indicator is not a decision which is solely based on scientific criteria. It is also based on values and interests of the actors involved. The decision to use an indicator is therefore also normative. At the FFU, we deal with the multiple roles of indicators and the process of the development of indicators.