International Committee on Environmental Indices (ICEI)

Mission Statement ICEI Objectives ICEI Activities Background ICEI National Scientific Advisors Publications Organizational Structure Registration ICEI Membership

The International Committee on Environmental Indices (ICEI) was organized within the framework of the well-known International Society for Ecological Modeling (ISEM) during the 1st International Conference, "Environmental Indices: Systems Analysis Approach", or INDEX-97, which took place in St.Petersburg, Russia, 7-11 July, 1997. ICEI is an international, nonprofit (open membership) professional organization of scientists dedicated to promoting the international exchange of ideas, scientific results, and general knowledge in the application of systems analysis techniques and methodologies (e.g., statistics, conceptual and computer models, et al.) for the development of environmental indices. ICEI is a forum for both scientists and decision-makers to exchange information and experience, and for developing collaborative programs.

Indicators and Indices: towards an integrated framework

Mission statement: to support the development of environmental indicators and indices with theory and practice from ecological, social, economic, systems-based and other disciplines at multiple scales. One of the main experiences in environmental research thus far, is that the reductionistic approach based on aspect-compartment oriented research methods has failed in analyzing adequately complex, multidisciplinary, large-scale environmental phenomena. A more promising way seems to be the holistic, integrated approach, based on a systems-oriented analysis, which concentrates on the interactions and feedback mechanisms between the different subsystems of cause-effect chains rather than focusing on each subsystem in isolation, usable by a broad range of disciplines.

These tasks shall be achieved through the following:

  • identification of key attributes from ecological theory and process knowledge;
  • incorporation of transdisciplinary methods (e.g. systems analysis approach, mathematical modeling, ecological and human health, information systems, decision-support systems, etc.) for integration of knowledge to cross-disciplines,
  • application of methods to address national and global issues.

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ICEI objectives

The objectives of the International Committee on Environmental Indices are:

  • to support the development of indicators and indices with theory and practice;
  • to utilize the existing methodologies and techniques of systems analysis for the development of environmental indices and to advocate the development of new approaches, methods, and technologies for the practice of environmental indices design and implementation;
  • to foster international, inter- and multidisciplinary communication and collaboration among scientists, universities, government agencies, industry, and public sectors for the development of environmental indices by coalesce and dissemination of information and provision of conferences, workshops and training on the application of the development of environmental indicators and indices.

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ICEI Activities
  • organization of biennial International Conferences INDEX and intermediate Workshops in different countries on various aspects of the application of systems analysis approach for the development of environmental indices;
  • organization of international projects;
  • organization of training workshops, the inter-disciplinary teaching and technical training programs devoted entirely to application of systems analysis approach for the development of environmental indices.

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Background

New requirements for environmental information and assessments, stipulated, for example, in Agenda 21, include: (a) integrated and timely access to data and information from many different sources and disciplines; (b) analysis of environment-development interactions and policy/management options; (c)identifying cause and effect relationships, as well as emerging issues of potential international importance; and (d) assessing the potential impacts and long-term sustainability of alternative development, policy or management scenarios.

To address these needs we must develop, adopt, and incorporate new ways of thinking, compiling, handling and assessing environmental information; develop new frameworks for organizing and integrating relevant information, and; establish new methods and tools to assess the information and communicate results to decision-makers.

The need for a simple and general overview of the development in the state-of-the environment has led to work on environmental indices in several countries and international organizations. In the last few years the scientific community has given a lot of attention to environmental indicators and indices, as well as to statistical approaches for presenting and interpreting information on environmental quality.

Environmental indicators can be defined as measures of change in the state of the environment, or in human activities which affect the state of the environment - preferably in relation to a standard, value, objective or goal. An indicator without a unit of measurement is an index. An index is often constructed from several indicators weighed together to describe total impact on a certain aspect within, for example, the broader "state-of-the-environment" (though it could, of course, attempt to describe the broader state-of-the-environment at any scale). The distinction between indicators and indices is based on a difference in aggregation level. The methodology of indicators aggregation into an index is crucial for the issue of indices development. The methodologies underlying indices development are valuable because they provide greater credibility to application of indices.

The justification for adopting a "systems" approach for the development of environmental indices is based on the following lines of argument: the systems character of ecological and biological systems has been recognized early. If the destruction of the ecological and resource base is to be avoided, man will have to learn to understand not only these systems, but also the consequences of his action on the natural ecosystems on which he depends.

This consequently also raises the question of ordering systems and classification of the environmental systems as well as of indicators and indices.

Environmental indices are closely allied to the natural resilience and buffer capacity of the biosphere in relation to anthropogenic disturbances. This disturbance can be represented by a set of interrelated cause-effect chains. The inextricably interconnected cause-effect chains form an organized whole, a complex system, the properties of which are more than just the sum of its constituent parts, the subsystems. The object of systems analysis is not only to study the particular system structure and to classify and describe the entities (components) of the system, but also to understand the processes, interactions and feedback mechanisms within the system that generate changes in its dynamics and structure. In enables a synoptic approach that addresses the interdependencies between the cause-effect chains. Given the complexity of the system under consideration, and the relative ignorance about the basic processes and interactions that determine its dynamics, the systems approach can help to foster understanding of the causal relationships that are responsible for changes in the structure and dynamics of the system. Therefore, the systems approach seems to be an appropriate method to capture the complexity of the interrelationships between the various subsystems of the complex environmental system. A prerequisite for such a systems approach is inter- and multidisciplinary, based on the integration of knowledge gleaned from a variety of scientific disciplines.

Generally, indicators and indices that are currently used to report about the environment are organized and valued without using any integrated modeling framework. This implies that they do not yield information about linkages between causes and effects (vertical integration), nor do they address cross-linkages between various causes and various effects (horizontal integration). The co-evolution of indices and models will not only help to identify trouble spots in the "global system," but can help to gauge extent and intensity, and time proper corrective actions.

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ICEI National Scientific Advisors

ICEI has national representatives in many countries whose responsibilities are:

  • to communicate with national scientific communities, agencies, national and international programs, NGO's and industry;
  • to disseminate the information about ICEI activity, conferences, workshops, etc.
  • to organize the national teams of scientists for participating in the international projects conducted by ICEI;
  • to identify new scientific issues, research and information needed for current and future national research programs.

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Publications

The ICEI newsletter, presented four times a year, conveys information within the Committee. Soon, it will be available on the Internet.

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Organizational structure

Prof. Sven Jorgensen is the Honorary Chairman of the Committee. ICEI is managed by an Executive committee of 4 members (three vice-chairmen and executive secretary). This officials are in charge of the development and maintenance of the web pages, including ICEI newsletters. Vice-chairmen of the ICEI are

Prof. Roman Lenz (Institute for Applied Research, FH Nurtingen, Schelmenwasen 4-8, D-72622 Nurtingen, Germany, tel. +49 7022 404-177, fax +49 7022 404 166, e-mail: lenzr@fh-nuertingen.de)

D.Eric Hyatt (National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC, 27711, Phone: 919 541 06 73, Fax: 919 541 18 18, E-mail: hyatt.eric@epa.gov)

Prof. Yuri A. Pykh (Center for International Environmental Cooperation (INENCO), 191187 St.Petersburg, Russia, Kutuzova nab., 14, Tel: (812) 272 16 01, Fax: (812) 272 42 65, e-mail: inenco@mail.neva.ru).

Executive secretary of the ICEI is

Prof. Irina Malkina-Pykh (Center for International Environmental Cooperation (INENCO), 191187 St.Petersburg, Russia, Kutuzova nab., 14,
Tel:(812)272-1601,Fax:(812)272-4265,email:malkina@mail.admiral.ru).

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Registration

ICEI is registered under the by-law of ISEM.

ICEI MEMBERSHIP

The Committee welcomes individuals and organizations for membership from a variety disciplines. They should be interested in or pursuing activities related the application of systems analysis approach to the development of environmental indices, or related fields. Please contact the Committee now, or write to the mailing addresses given above for further membership information.

ICEI will assist local or regional groups in establishing affiliated societies.

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