Science Inventory

Rethinking the Design of Resilience and Adaptation Indicators Supporting Coastal Communities


Keenan, J. AND K. Maxwell. Rethinking the Design of Resilience and Adaptation Indicators Supporting Coastal Communities. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. Taylor & Francis Group, London, Uk, 65(12):2297-2317, (2021).


Communities around the United States are engaged in adaptation and resilience planning to reduce environmental and health risks associated with extreme weather, a changing climate, and changing environmental conditions. Having improved measures of resilience can support decision-making for adaptation and resilience, particularly for coastal communities that face a range of chronic and acute risks. This article describes findings from a Workshop hosted by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Research Center (SESYNC) that gathered producers and consumers of indicators. One key finding was to identify feedbacks among indicator science, development, and use. Another was highlighting pathways for better considering these feedbacks to develop indicators that integrate social and environmental data to support community- resilience decisions. These findings help advance the science of indicators. The findings may be of interest to scientists looking to develop decision-relevant resilience indicators and practitioners seeking to utilize indicators in resilience decisions at the federal, state, or local level.


As resilience and adaptation considerations become mainstreamed into public policy, there is an overarching desire to generate measure and quantify metrics and indicators that seek to evaluate the efficiency, effectiveness, and justness associated with outcomes derived from such processes. While much research has sought to develop specific indicators that may serve as proxies for these considerations, less research has focused on those normative aspects of indicator design that support a variety of goals associated with the accuracy, reproducibility, proxy value and multi-stakeholder translation, among various other goals and values. This perspective article sets forth a range of potential considerations that may be useful for those who seek to design and develop novel resilience and adaptation indicators (“RAIs”). These considerations are explored through a range of hypothetical examples that may be applicable to coastal communities. In light of the practical necessity to qualitatively and quantitatively customize indicators for particular places, communities, and public policies, this article seeks to address the practical challenges facing the design, execution, management and modification of RAIs. This exploration is based on an analysis of the literature and findings from a two-day workshop held on the subject at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center in 2019. Workshop topics included indicator definitions and meanings, end users considerations, building ongoing resilience intelligence, and synthesizing social and environmental data for RAIs. Workshop findings point to the importance of understanding and addressing feedbacks among indicator science, development, and use to develop RAI that are scientifically sound and support decision-making at different scales. Participants identified several pathways for generating and utilizing RAI in ways that address these feedback loops.

Record Details:

Product Published Date:09/28/2021
Record Last Revised:05/31/2023
OMB Category:Other
Record ID: 357572