School of Social and Political Science

Quantifying the world - The METRO conference

22 - 23 September 2021
14:00 - 18:30





The Metro Conference - Quantifying the world


From the GDP to the SDGs, numbers are becoming ubiquitous in our social and political life. This conference asks the overarching question: How has quantification acquired such a central role in the ways we know, understand and act on the world’s most pressing problems? As with the discursive power of language to shape what we know about the world, quantification has become central to the ways that we perceive the world and design policies to govern it. In other words, numbers became the language of contemporary governance. The METRO conference will offer the opportunity to discuss the need to focus not only on the nominal qualities of the numbers themselves but on ‘the people classified, the experts who classify, study and help them, the institutions within which the experts and their subjects interact, and through which authorities control’ (Hacking 2007:295). From the data visualizations of nowcasted epidemiological data in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic to calculation practices of the costs of climate change, conference presentations will engage with the practices, actors, and institutions of quantification to take on these questions.


Keynote lectures will be given by Wendy Espeland (Northwestern) and Mary Morgan (LSE).

The programme outline is available below, but you can shortly access the full PDF programme here. Programme times are UK time zone.

Day 1, 22 Sept 2021

  • 14.00-15.30: Block 1– Quantification and Visibility/ Global Public Policy as Epistemic Infrastructure (keynote lecture, METRO project findings and Q&A)
  • 15.40-16.55: Block 2 – Quantification and Governance (three papers followed by Q&A) 
  • 17.15-18.30: Block 3 – Tools of Quantification: Nowcasting, Comparisons, and Expertise (three papers followed by Q&A) 

Day 2, 23 Sept 2021

  • 14.00-14.50: Block 4 – Measuring Social Science Umbrella Concepts (keynote lecture followed by Q&A) 
  • 15.00-16.15: Block 5 – Practices of Ranking (three papers followed by Q&A)
  • 16.30-18.30: Block 6 – Capturing Culture, Climate Change, and Poverty (three papers followed by closing discussion and reflections) 

Event platform

This event will take place online, on Zoom. Registered participants will receive login details in the days before the event. 


We collect some basic details about each participant as part of the registration process. We use these details to communicate with everyone about the event plans, and other details are used to inform both us and our funders of the participation, such as the geographic location and the career stage.

Key speakers

  • Wendy Espeland, Northwestern University
  • Mary Morgan, London School of Economics