PROSUITE - comprehensive review of existing indicators

The PROspective SUstaInability assessment of TEchnologies project (PROSUITE) aims to carry out a three-step approach in order to (i) establish a set of relevant integrated indicators of sustainability, (ii) deliver an assessment for four emerging technologies and (iii) design an easy-to-use and free software tool suite for end-users in administration and in industry (both large and small). A comprehensive review of existing indicators is developed alongside the project to achieve a social sustainability appraisal of innovative technologies by taking into account various social aspects. The approach is split into three main phases.

In the first step, a literature review was carried out, which allowed the identifying of more than 600 social indicators coming from articles, reports and various research initiatives.

The second step focused on the preliminary selection of social indicators. This step was conducted according to a set of predefined selection criteria with regard to quality requirements. As a result, the amount of indicators has diminished from 600 to approximately 80 indicators.

The third step aimed to fine-tune this pre-selected body of indicators. The approach for doing so was based on two group-Delphi processes: one related to the nanotechnology case-study and the other dedicated to the carbon capture and storage (CCS) case study. The difference between a group-Delphi and a traditional Delphi-process lies in the face-to-face situation that takes place and enables the exchange of arguments, instead of a written survey. The major benefits of using group-Delphi are:

  • providing immediate and direct feedback between stakeholders,
  • clarifying the deviations as well as facilitating their acceptance via discussion between dissenting experts,
  • checking whether the consensual viewpoints are consistent, and
  • saving time, given that a group-Delphi lasts one or two days whereas a Delphi-process may take several months.

In the framework of the project, for each group-Delphi process, a group of experts participated in a day-long seminar. The objective of such a group is to find a consensus between all experts’ individual assessments who are involved in the selection process. The principle is described as follows: every expert gives a score (ranging from 1 to 10) to each indicator. A consensus is deemed to be found when the variation-coefficient is below a 0.5 threshold. When the variation-coefficient goes over this threshold, the indicator is discussed during a plenary session. Moreover, when an expert’s score deviates from the median score, he/she is asked to justify his/her choice during the plenary session.
The group-Delphi on nanotechnology took place in October 2011 and the group on CCS took place in December 2011. The two groups have delivered two sets of indicators related to these technologies for assessing their social sustainability.


D 4.3 Report : Final selection of social indicators