Environmental Management

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 294–305

Indicators of Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities at the Interface of Science and Policy



Rising global interest in sustainability has triggered attention in indicators as a means of achieving a more sustainable world. Although the search for indicators has led to the development of criteria for good indicators, it has also been dominated by scientific elites. The consequences of such dominance leads to significant social and policy implications, particularly with regard to how the search for sustainability has become defined primarily as a technical/scientific exploration when it is actually a moral and ethical issue. Our discussion about sustainability and appropriate indicators centers on what constitutes the public interest, a question that requires inclusiveness and centers on the interface of science and policy. The paper reviews the rationale for selecting indicators, the functions they serve, and the implications and consequences involved when one sector—science—dominates the debate. The paper concludes with suggestions about appropriate roles of science, policy and the public in the indicator selection process.

Sustainability Indicators Policy Sustainable development criteria 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Society and Conservation College of Forestry and ConservationThe University of Montana MissoulaMontanaUSA
  2. 2.Pacific Northwest Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceOregonUSA

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