How is vulnerability measured?

From Vuwiki

Jump to: navigation, search


The measurement of vulnerability is on the one hand described by the methods which are applied to gather and analyse data and on the other hand by the theoretical approach respectively framework on which the study or measurement conception is based. In the wiki the methodological approach is represented twice: You can find rough information about the data collection and analysis methods on the wikipage for an concrete assessment and more details on the pages which deal with a specific assessment method. First of all the operational approach is characterized by a certain research design: we distinguish between longitudinal, cross-sectional, case studies and assessments which have a strong focus on defining indicators that measure vulnerability. Since indicators are a key element in an assessment and have a strong impact on its validity we are especially interested in giving at least an overview about the applied indicators. Sometimes the choice of indicators is restricted to secondary data which is for example provided by official statistics whereas in other contexts researchers develop ad hoc indicators.

The mindmap gives an overview about all captured aspects of the operational approach of vulnerability assessments.

Flash plugin or Javascript are turned off. Activate both and reload to view the mindmap

Methods of data collection

Various methods and sources can be used to gather information about the vulnerability of a certain place or system:

Dependent on its source data can be considered as secondary data, if it is collected by someone else than the investigator or primary data, if it is gathered specifically for this purpose by the investigators themselves. Methods of inquiry that rather focus on in depth understanding of human behavior and its reasons are labeled as qualitative. Often these methods use non-standardized instruments and rather ask "why" or "how" something happened instead of "where", "when" or "what". In some cases concerned people or stakeholders participate in steps of the research process and the relationship between experts and the community is less or even non-hierarchical.

Methods of data analysis

In vulnerability studies various methods are used to analyse data:

Theoretical approaches

Conceptualizations of vulnerability vary across research domains and impinge on the choice and design of research instruments. Hence a discussion of an assessment should always take into account the theoretical framework. Each conceptual framework can comprise a multitude of factors which determine vulnerability but unfortunately these frameworks are incompatible to each other and no overall framework is existing. Hanns-Martin Füssel argues that termninological confusion mainly results from a unclear distinction between the dimensions sphere and knowledge domain and proposes a minimal structure to classify the multitude of apporaches. Whereas the "sphere" respectively "scale" describes whether a vulnerability factor is considered as internal or external to the system, the second dimension "knowlegde domain" distinguishes between socio-economic and biophysical factors, which can of course overlap. Socioeconomic factors encompass aspects like access to power and resources, social networks as well as policies, international aid or economic globalization. In comparison biophysical aspects of vulnerability refer to topography, environmental conditions, land cover or hazards like earthquakes, strom or sea-level-rise.

The mindmap gives an overview about all captured aspects of the theoretical approach of vulnerability assessments.

Flash plugin or Javascript are turned off. Activate both and reload to view the mindmap

Based on Hanns-Martin Füssel ideas (Füssel 2006) [1] we classify the assessments according to their main conceptual lineage:

The table below illustrates which kind of vulnerability factors these approaches take in to account.

Approaches in vulnerability research according to Füssel (2006)
Approach Vulnerability factors Denotation
Risk-hazard - X - - Internal biophysical vulnerability
Political economy X -  ? - Cross-scale socioeconomic vulnerability
Pressure and release X X - - Internal integrated vulnerability
Integrated X X X X Cross-scale integrated vulnerability
Resilience X X  ?  ? Cross-scale (?) integrated vulnerability

IS= internal socioeconomic IB= internal biophysical ES= external socioeconomic EB= external biophysical
Source: Füssel (2006)

See also


  1. Füssel, H. -M (2007): Vulnerability: A generally applicable framework for climate change research. In: Global Environmental Change, V. 17, p. 155–167.
Personal tools
Enrich Vuwiki