Economics - the Demystifying Process

Demystifying Economic Valuation group

The Demystifying Economic Valuing group was established by the Valuing Nature Programme Coordination Team to write ‘key principles of economic valuation’ papers in the first half of 2016.  The invitation to join the Demystifying Economic Valuing group is now closed.

Second Round

The 'Demystifying Economic Valuation' group provided comments which have been used to design the contents of two papers:

  • A short ‘key paper’ reference material for a general audience. It is being written by Ece Ozdemiroglu and Rosie Hails, incorporating the contributors’ views. The first public draft of this paper will be presented at envecon 2016 on 18 March, and will be open for consultation for a month before being launched widely in May – June 2016.  This draft paper is now available to members of the group for comment - deadline for responses 4 April 2016 Download the draft paper and consultation notes here.
  • A longer ‘review paper’ which will be prepared by a large number of lead and contributing authors and respondents. It will cover many of the same issues in key paper, but in greater detail, and will still be for a general audience. The first draft for the group to review will be available at the end of April 2016. The final version, planned to be ready for the summer, will be submitted to the Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy

​For further information, please contact

First Round

Thank you to everyone who responded to our ‘Demystifying Economic Valuation’ call – 112 in total!

  • 68 of you described yourselves as “an economist who works to collate, analyse and communicate economic value evidence”
  • 8 of you described yourselves as “a decision maker who uses economic value evidence in the way you formulate and appraise decisions”
  • 36 of you described yourselves as “a specialist in a field other than economics, providing evidence (e.g. scientific, social) as an input to economic valuation studies.

The next step will be to produce two Papers informed by the respondents answers in the first round:

  1. a Key Paper on the main issues, questions and principle surrounding economic valuation. This Paper is designed as an overview for those new to economic valuation.
  2. a Review Paper that will explore the issues raised in the Key Paper in more depth. The Review Paper will be submitted to the Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy and will be co-authored by those respondents who volunteer to co-author it.

Respondents have been asked to comment on the overall structure of the Papers through a survey by 26 January, 2016. If you are a respondent and wish to be resent the link please contact


Background information on the Demystifying Economic Valuation group

We received over 100 responses to our invitation to join this group. We set up a quick questionnaire to ask the participants’ views on which questions and issues should be covered in the key principles, and also asked them to give us their elevator pitch to explain economic valuation. Work to collate their responses is continuing and the first draft of the principles paper will appear here soon. 

The group’s activity is the first of many to come under the VNN’s ‘demystifying…’ series. The purpose of the series is to bring together experts to explain the key concepts that cause confusion in the wider community, and agree on principles of good practice. Concepts of “Value / Valuation” are an obvious start for this.

There are of course many textbooks on economic valuation, but there is still a lot of misunderstanding too, especially amongst the research users. Our aim is to bring the volunteers from the economic valuation community together to agree on a principles paper that can be used to communicate with other disciplines and the users of the economic value evidence - a position/principles paper for the profession.

For further information, please contact Ms Ece Ozdemiroglu, Economics Lead of the Valuing Nature Programme Coordination Team.

For general queries about Valuing Nature Network and Programme, please contact


This paper will focus on one particular angle: economic valuation. Other definitions of value and other disciplinary approaches to its expression will be covered in future events and papers of the “demystifying…” series.

The demystifying economic valuation paper will:

  • acknowledge explicitly that there are different notions of value;
  • define what “economic value” is and is not;
  • explain how we measure economic value,
  • how can economic value evidence help decision-making, and
  • discuss what the challenges / criticisms are and how we respond to these.

The actions and outputs

Participants are expected to work to the following schedule:

  • respond with a list of issues you think should be included –  by 6 January 2016
  • receive the first draft outline of the paper – by 11 January 2016
  • comment on the first draft – 1 February 2016
  • receive the second draft – 22 February 2016
  • meet to discuss the second draft (if required) -  7 March 2016
  • presentation and distribution at envecon 2016 – 18 March 2016
  • consultation with the wider VNN community of other disciplines and users of economic value evidence
  • launch of the final economic valuation principles paper, accessible to all – early May 2016
  • Submission of the paper to Journal for Environmental Economics and Policy – a longer version – if accepted, would likely be published by the end of 2016.

The expected output

  • A 4 page ‘go-to’ document for research users that present 7-10 principles of economic valuation
  • Possibly a more technical documentation for the peer reviewed and grey literature.

Contributions will be edited by Prof Rosie Hails and Ece Ozdemiroglu, Chair and Economics Lead of the VNN Programme Coordination Team, respectively.

The expected outcome

Research users have ‘go-to’ document prepared by a large group of practitioners and research users that answers most things they wanted to but were afraid to ask about economic valuation.

Has this been done before?

Not for economic valuation. But the research community working on social value / social return on investment have a ‘Seven Key Principles’ paper, which you can download by clicking here.

There are also publications like Quick Start Guides by the Natural EnglandPOST notes and Policy & Practice Notes by LWEC. These are authored by one or a small group of commissioned writers…so they are not like what we are planning in the way they are created but they are also aimed at a wider audience.


Future of the series…

“What’s in a name?” – is it nature, ecology, environment, natural resources, ecosystems, ecosystem services, natural capital? Does it matter?

“The philosophical debate about valuation”

“Cultural Services”

“Political Economy of Landuse”


Draft of paper outline

Initial draft should be a set of questions / issues that need to be demystified:

  1. What is economic value?
  2. Who expresses economic values?
  3. How do economic values vary?
  4. Why do people have economic values for the environment?
  5. What can we value in economic terms?
  6. What can we not value in economic terms?
  7. Why do we use money as the metric for economic value?
  8. What are the needs for economic value evidence? // Which policy / investment questions can evidence on economic value of the environment help answer?
  9. Any other questions