A review of methods and data to determine raw material criticality

Dieuwertje Schrijvers, Alessandra Hool*, Gian Andrea Blengini, Wei Qiang Chen, Jo Dewulf, Roderick Eggert, Layla van Ellen, Roland Gauss, James Goddin, David Peck, More Authors

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)
188 Downloads (Pure)


The assessment of the criticality of raw materials allows the identification of the likelihood of a supply disruption of a material and the vulnerability of a system (e.g. a national economy, technology, or company) to this disruption. Inconclusive outcomes of various studies suggest that criticality assessments would benefit from the identification of best practices. To prepare the field for such guidance, this paper aims to clarify the mechanisms that affect methodological choices which influence the results of a study. This is achieved via literature review and round table discussions among international experts. The paper demonstrates that criticality studies are divergent in the system under study, the anticipated risk, the purpose of the study, and material selection. These differences in goal and scope naturally result in different choices regarding indicator selection, the required level of aggregation as well as the subsequent choice of aggregation method, and the need for a threshold value. However, this link is often weak, which suggests a lack of understanding of cause-and-effect mechanisms of indicators and outcomes. Data availability is a key factor that limits the evaluation of criticality. Furthermore, data quality, including both data uncertainty and data representativeness, is rarely addressed in the interpretation and communication of results. Clear guidance in the formulation of goals and scopes of criticality studies, the selection of adequate indicators and aggregation methods, and the interpretation of the outcomes, are important initial steps in improving the quality of criticality assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104617
Number of pages17
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Critical raw materials
  • Critical resources
  • Criticality assessment
  • Material criticality
  • Strategic raw materials


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