Overview of an Integrated Assessment 

Michigan Sea Grant

Restoring Natural Flow in the Clinton River Watershed

The goal of an Integrated Assessment project is to synthesize scientific knowledge in order to guide decision-making around a particular environmental issue. These research projects are assessments because they involve a review and analysis of existing information. Rather than running additional experiments, experts summarize what’s known and go a step beyond the facts and offer an assessment or an evaluation of those facts. These research projects integrate:

  • Policy-makers, in order to identify scientific information needed to guide decision-making
  • Stakeholders, typically community and business leaders with a stake in the issue
  • Knowledge from several disciplines, typically physical, biological, and social sciences
  • An analysis of the causes of and an analysis of the possible responses to a problem

Integrated Assessments bring together community leaders, industry representatives, scientists, and policy-makers to identify and evaluate policy and/or management options on particularly difficult environmental problems. The kinds of problems/questions best suited to Integrated Assessment are those that have no clear-cut cause and lack an obvious solution. This type of Issue is typically at the center of most environmental sustainability conflicts. 

The focus of the Integrated Assessments approach is data analysis, synthesis, modeling, and stakeholder engagement (e.g., surveys, focus groups, workshops, panel discussions, and interactive policy analysis). Integrated Assessment can take many forms, but many use the framework below. Depending on the needs of decision-makers, certain objectives may be emphasized within the assessment.

  • Define the policy–relevant question
  • Document the status and trends of environmental, social, and economic conditions related to the issue
  • Describe the causes and consequences of those trends
  • Identify desired outcomes and policy options
  • Provide forecasts of conditions under various policy options
  • Provide technical guidance for implementing each option
  • Provide an assessment of the level of certainty regarding the previous steps 

See Michigan Sea Grant Website for more information