5.6 Developing Science, Technology, and Social Indicators

Indicators are aggregate measures of various phenomena. Collectively, they indicate the state of a system. Indicators can address both technology and societal factors. Each is considered in the sections that follow.

5.6.1 Science and Technology Indicators

There are restrictions on the choice of variables to be used as technology indicators. First, the variable must measure the level of functionality of the technology. Thus, an understanding of the technology and its application is required for choosing the correct variable. Second, the variable must be applicable both to the new technology and to any older technology it replaces. Third, and often most limiting, sufficient data must be available to compute historical values.

If the ideal indicator is not available or is less complete than alternative measures, a compromise may be necessary. For instance, in devising indicators of high-technology development among nations, Roessner and Porter (1990) used technology sales as surrogate production measures.

The tech mining framework posits a list of some 200 “innovation indicators” (Porter and Cunningham 2005). The list offers ideas about how to draw on science and technology information resources to help understand particular factors, such as the effect of a rising trend in research activity. These innovation indicators can be used to derive knowledge from available data in less obvious ways that are attuned to sensitivities ...

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