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The Politics of Monitoring is a 3-year project funded by the ESRC, which examines monitoring practices in three policy areas: climate change, immigration control and defence procurement.

Monitoring is central to the policy process: policy makers need to gather information in order to chart the nature and scale of policy problems, and to assess the impact of their policies. Since the 1980s, there has been a huge expansion of quantitative, performance-based measures across policy areas – a trend which has more recently been criticized by the 2010 government. So what explains the appeal of targets and indicators since the 1980s, and how have they been implemented across sectors? How has the emphasis on delivery and the ‘target culture’ affected policy outcomes and political debate? And how feasible is it to roll back performance-based monitoring practices once in place?

The project addresses these questions through analysing monitoring in climate change, immigration control, and defense procurement, over a 20 year period (1994-2014). The research will be based on interviews with around 90 officials and professionals engaged in monitoring in the three sectors; and analysis of key policy documents, press releases, media coverage and parliamentary debate on monitoring practices and their effects. You can read more about the research here.

The research is being carried out by a team of researchers based in the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh. The team consists of Christina Boswell (PI), Colin Fleming, Eugenia Rodrigues, Graham Spinardi and Steve Yearley.