Institut de Gestion de l'Environnement et d'Aménagement du Territoire

The use and influence of indicators – a conceptual framework for research.

The ‘use’ of information in policy making has been critically examined in research areas such as evaluation, planning, communication, and policy making more broadly. This research has moved the understandings of how information generally is adopted (or not) in policy making beyond assumptions of instrumental use (=knowledge applied to problem solving and decision making) towards the recognition of for example symbolic or tactical functions of the information use, as well as potential contributions to adjustment of policy actors’ frames of reference (‘enlightenment use’).

Recent research has also addressed the subsequent ‘influence’ of the information, opening up to effects at the level of individuals, processes and institutions. ‘Indicators’ is a particular knowledge technology with high pretence of relevance and usability, sometimes purported as the very essence of needed information. However indicators could fall prey to some of the same ‘use distortions’ as other knowledge technologies. To examine the actual use and influence of indicators it is necessary to reflect general conditions of ‘knowledge use’ in policy making, as well as more specific ‘indicator factors’ , such as representativity, data availability, aggregation procedures, or legitimacy. The paper presents how the various strains of research have been combined in the analytical framework developed for the empirical research in the POINT project.


Gudmundssson H., Morse S., Bauler T., Lehtonen M. (2009), The use and influence of indicators – a conceptual framework for research. Nordic Environmental Social Sciences 9-12 June 2009, London.

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