This groundbreaking Hungarian project takes a look at what’s behind all those mighty indicators

Who creates indicator systems? How do they do so and for what purpose? What is their approach to the phenomena they describe? If they are assessing the same phenomenon, why do they occasionally come to different conclusions? How can they be compared or contrasted?

Everybody knows the terms GDP, IQ, A+, Euro 6, or country classifications that rank countries based on an arbitrary set of criteria. And yet, less or nothing at all is known about the specific data-collection methodology behind them, or about the organizations that measure them. A coalition of Hungarian experts have set out to change that.

In the first phase of the "International Evaluator-Meter" project, a professional team consisting of researchers and experts from the Digital Success Nonprofit Ltd., the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, the National University of Public Service, and Corvinus University of Budapest undertook to collect and screen the measurement systems used and basic data collected by the organizations that examine various social, economic and environmental processes and situational factors.

The goal is to research these indicator systems, understand their structure and evaluation methodology, and produce a publication that compares them.

The first volume of the “International Evaluator-Meter” project is therefore a pilot inventory of international indices that are widely used by policy-makers, investors and analysts. In this publication, 93 measurement systems and 3,710 indicators from 61 organizations have been covered.

In the next phase of the project, the second volume, the technical team will present the evaluator-meter’s information system itself as a measurement tool, while the third volume will focus on measuring the change in the studied indices.

The selection of indicators in the first year was designed for the project to quickly take off and provide researchers with a general overview. In compiling the list, it was important to include not only the largest, best-known (global) measurement systems, but also lesser-known but professionally and methodologically recognized reports. The indicators studied typically describe social, economic and natural phenomena or examine them in a complex manner. Typical users are governmental and non-governmental organizations, academic and educational institutions, businesses and other decision-makers.

If you’re wondering what makes this project interesting for a government official such as myself, then the answer is simple: If the project succeeds, we will have at our disposal a tool to finally assess and compare the measurement systems of those notorious organizations that stay so busy ranking countries — to shed light on the systems they use so often to defame us in international media.

Yes, Freedom House, I’m looking primarily at you.