Actors, Capacities, Venues and Effects
New Horizons in Public Policy series
Edited by Andrew J. Jordan and John R. Turnpenny
Chapter 4: Indicators: tools for informing, monitoring or controlling?
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’.