Pitfalls of “Slippery Indicators”: The Importance of Reading Between the Lines
Date: August 2022
Author(s): Julia Fischer-Mackey and Jonathan Fox
Publication type: Scholarly journal article
Published by: Development in Practice
Within the field of social accountability, studies about “community monitoring” have made broad claims about “what works” – or not – in practice, with significant implications for practitioners and policymakers. Interpretation of these findings is complicated when studies rely on “slippery indicators” that do not measure the real-world processes they claim to address.
This article illustrates the problem of slippery indicators, which has two main elements. First, some studies rely on indicators that do not actually measure community monitoring. Second, studies that claim to show a failure of community monitoring to deliver improvements may actually show a failure to deliver community monitoring in the first place.
While complex research methods may obscure these two related problems, readers can still assess whether studies’ claims are supported by their empirical data by checking whether the findings are grounded in indicators that actually measure what they claim to study