Managing data and performance indicators within an integrated framework
Given the above considerations about the necessary diversity of narratives, methods, goals and criteria for providing an adequate information base for developing problem-solving policies, integrated data management becomes crucial. The EUFORIE experience has shown that the fol-lowing aspects regarding data gathering and processing should be pointed out and shared:
- Understanding the interplay of material and energy efficiency. Talking of energy efficiency is an incomplete exercise if not associated to material efficiency analysis.
- Identifying the product or service provided by the process investigated, for comparison across alternatives.
- Appropriate monitoring and assessment methods and performance indicators answering questions about the goals, the spatial and time scales and the final beneficiaries of the achieved or pursued material and energy efficiency. Such questions can be “efficiency to do what?”, “efficiency at what scale?”, “efficiency for how long?”, “efficiency to whom?”.
- Overcoming mono-dimensional energy assessments. They prove not to be very telling for understanding complex systems and their multi-input/multi-output processes. Trade-offs are a frequent case, for instance achieving an improvement of energy efficiency may require decreasing the material efficiency, resulting in a burden to the environmental or the sustainability performance of the system.
- Synergic integration of different assessment methods must be pursued. It allows a deeper understanding of the premises of each method, and efforts to combine some of them into an organised and consistent multi-dimensional assessment procedure helps navigating the complexity of the information space generated, Different combinations are possible and recommended; one size does not fit all.
- Transparency in performance assessment becomes the basis for discussion, understanding and quality improvement (Aarhus Convention, 1998). Stakeholders need a complete set of data, links and scenarios, contributing to “governance-by-disclosure”. Most often discussion, dialogue, participatory governance, and appropriate problem-solving processes are hampered by a lack of suitable information, risking that decision-making processes degrade into “talking of nothing”.