Well-defined terminology is of outmost importance to Material Flow Analysis (MFA). In many instances, data and terms comes from various sources and scientific disciplines depending on the objectives of an MFA study.
Well defined methodologies are perceived as those using clearly defined terms. There are several ambiguities concerning the use of terms by different stakeholders, which add to the lack of clarity on data and analyses. Considering that this project requests for stakeholders from different disciplines to adopt the system thinking in their practices, implies that the development of ‘common language’ is a necessity. Several challenges exist in developing common terminology:
- Development of definitions of terms agreed and understood by different stakeholders
- Addressing language barrier inherent in a multi-national society
- Ensuring that the terminology is used in the right context
- Ensuring that in the future these definitions are adopted and used not just by MFA practitioners, but also from decision makers, the wider research community, future EU funded project and others
MinFuture has set up a Task Force looking at addressing terminology issues and delivering a glossary that will be part of the common MFA methodology. The Task Force will also explore the impact of the identified challenges in delivering a coherent outcome.
This report aims to address existing challenges by developing a methodological framework for the monitoring of the physical economy that facilitates the users in reflecting more systematically about the problems mentioned above and in developing more effective strategies for addressing them. The framework proposed is based on Material Flow Analysis (MFA), a tool widely used for tracking materials and energy in the economy.
MinFuture is a collaborative project funded by the Horizon 2020 framework, aiming to identify, integrate, and develop expertise for global material flow analysis and scenario modelling.
The MinFuture workshop synthesis brief describes the main insights from discussions on:
- How can we add more relevance and credibility to data published on raw materials? What context is missing that might enhance their status? How could we present data using a systemic MFA? perspective
- How do raw material data reporting schemes (information flows) currently operate at national, regional and global level?
- What raw material indicators are often used to identify issues with raw material supply/ demand? What are their strengths and weaknesses and how do they relate to material flow analysis?
Aimed at developing a common framework to analyse global mineral raw material flows, which can be agreed and used at international level, the MinFuture project intends to support data collectors, providers and users. Improving knowledge and quality of data on material cycles was found to be essential, but is faced with challenges such as interrupted information flows or lacking data availability. The first MinFuture Workshop (‘Methodology workshop’) served to discuss how MinFuture could support key data providers and users.
The purpose of this workshop was to initiate a dialogue with key stakeholders that report raw materials data, use data to develop MFA models, or use MFA models to inform decision making. The knowledge and needs of data providers, users and decision actors are different, but in order for a ‘common approach’ to be developed their input is required.
The brief presents key discussion items and main findings from the June 2017 Workshop in Vienna. In order to tackle challenges such as insufficient information flows or lacking data availability, a (more) systemic understanding of global mineral raw material flows is needed. Mapping the system context and making data/information gaps explicit will help identifying possible improvements.