Monitoring and Governance

How do policymakers, scientific experts and wider publics observe and measure policy outcomes? Most OECD countries have experienced a huge rise in the use of indicators and performance measures to track policy. Performance is measured, evaluated and compared through various forms of inspection, targets, league tables and benchmarking. SKAPE members have examined how and why such practices have been developed in different sectors, and looked at the implications for policymaking and public services. How are such monitoring practices taken up and diffused across EU/OECD countries? And it is not only nations and supra-national entities that are monitored in this way. International organisations and even large multi-country NGOs have applied (or been subject to) similar approaches. Our research examines the ways in which such attempts at rationalising policy can be ritualistic, decoupled from informal practices; how the imposition of targets and rankings can influence – and distort – behaviour in unanticipated ways; and how such methodologies have affected European and international governance.

Current projects

Within this theme, our members and associate members are part of the following projects:

  • The ‘International Organisations and the Rise of a Global Metrological Field’, or METRO in short, focuses on the rise of quantification as a key tool in the production of knowledge for transnational governance. Please find out more from the project website:
  • Managing Uncertainty in Government Modelling is a project at the Alan Turing Institute, led by Prof Chris Dent from the School of Mathematics, looking at how to translate new methodologies for managing uncertainty in computer models into widespread government analysis practice – click here for more detail. This links to a range of related activity, including expert advice to government agencies (e.g. report to Ofgem) and work specifically on energy in the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration.

Previous projects

Completed projects from our members and associate members within this theme:

  • The Politics of Monitoring: Information, Indicators and Targets in Climate Change, Immigration and Defence Policy examined the determinants and impacts of changing practices in monitoring across three sectors of UK policy. It was a 3-year ESRC project, running from April 2013-March 2016.
  • Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge as a Policy Instrument in Climate Policy was a project funded by the Research Council of Norway that looked at the ways in which key agencies have sought to make the basis for scientific judgements about climate change more systematic and more transparent.
  • Governing by Inspection: School Inspection and Education Governance in Scotland, England and Sweden. This 3-year research project, funded by the ESRC and the Swedish Research Council compared the use of school inspection as a form of governing of education in three systems, in the context of current changes in inspection practices in Europe.
  • International Lessons in Reducing Health Inequalities was a small grant exploring how (if at all) ideas developed in the UK concerning efforts to tackle health inequalities are being received, transformed and/or resisted in selected Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs).
  • Seeing Illegal Immigrants: State Monitoring and Political Rationality.  This 2-year project, led by Prof Christina Boswell, explored how public authorities in France, Germany and the UK have monitored unauthorized immigrants from the late 1960s to the present day. A team of 5 social scientists and historians assessed which forms of illegality states monitor, and which are left unscrutinised; and investigate the techniques states use to produce knowledge about illegal populations.
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