Panels details > Panel 31

P31- Indexes, indicators and numbers: processes of quantification in social policy

PANEL Organizers :

Franssen Thomas (, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University (Netherlands)

• Grommé Francisca (, Goldsmiths, University of London (United Kingdom)


In the last decades, policy has been increasingly build around and invaded by indicators, indexes and other numbers. In domains, such as social policy (Noordegraaf, 2008; Keevers et al., 2012) and higher education (Burrows, 2012) performance indicators and indexes have come to play an increasingly important role as evidence for the development of policy. These indicators and indexes are part of what is called the “audit culture” (Power, 1999) and serve a range of purposes. Numbers emerging through indicators act as evidence and legitimation for policy interventions as quantification offers the suggestion of objective and transparent information. Also, numbers are tools for communication with different policy publics. The rise of what is called “big data” will likely increase the use of numbers and the importance of processes of quantification in policy even further. This panel invites contributions that deal with the role numbers, indicators or indexes play in policy practices in all fields. We ask, for instance, how are social problems and solutions enacted through indicators? How are people classified, ordered and ranked through statistic procedures? What roles do numbers, and processes of quantification serve in policy-making? By putting concrete practices of quantification centre stage, this panel seeks to bring together research from a range of perspectives such as interpretative policy analysis, governmentality studies and material semiotics. 


Burrows, R. (2012) Living with the h-index? Metric assemblages in the contemporary academy. The Sociological Review, 60(2): 355-372. Keevers, L., Treleaven, L., Sykes, C. and Darcy, M. (2012) Made to measure: Taming practices with results-based accountability. Organization Studies, 33(1): 97-120. Noordegraaf, M. (2008) Meanings of measurement: the real story behind the Rotterdam Safety Index. Public Management Review, 10(2): 221-239. Power, M. (1999) The audit society: Rituals of verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Quantification, numbers, indicators


Faculty E2.10

SESSION 1 : 9/07/15 : 09:00-10:30

Chair: Francisca Grommé (, Goldsmiths, University of London (UK)

Discussant: Thomas Franssen (, Leiden University (The Netherlands)

Backseat Drivers? How regulatory indicators are made

Shirley Kempeneer (, University of Antwerp (Belgium)

Indexes, indicators and numbers in human rights monitoring

Julia-Nadine Warrelman (, Bielefeld University (Germany)

Big data and public policy: Is a new ‘sociology of quantification' needed?

Roser Cussó (, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne (France); Fabrice Bardet (, ENTPE/Rives (France)

SESSION 2 : 9/07/15 : 14:00-15:30

Chair: Thomas Franssen
(, Leiden University (The Netherlands)

Discussant: Francisca Grommé (, Goldsmiths, University of London (UK)

Public opinion surveys and the formation of popular discontent in Europe

Anne Slootweg (, Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

Consumer Financial Capability: Measuring the level of consumer integration in financial services markets

Asta Zokaityte (, University of Kent (UK)

Lost and found in quantification: Unpacking an index in Amsterdam local governance

Mandy de Wilde (, University of Antwerp (Belgium)

SESSION 3 : 09/07/15 : 16:00-17:30

Chair: Francisca Grommé (, Goldsmiths, University of London (UK)

Discussant: Thomas Franssen (, Leiden University (The Netherlands)

Number governance of community transitions

Gerald Taylor Aiken (, University of Luxembourg (Luxembourg)

Monitoring, numbers and empirical governance: Lessons from climate and migration monitoring in the UK

Steven Yearly (, University of Edinburgh (UK)

Measuring food risk and danger at the US Department of Agriculture

Saul Halfon (, Virginia Tech (US)

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