The SNIS International Geneva Committee has selected Annabelle Littoz-Monnet and Juanita Uribe's article Methods Regimes in Global Governance: The Politics of Evidence-Making in Global Health | International Political Sociology as a winner of this year’s SNIS IG Award. The award is given to the three best papers published on a subject related to international studies that are especially useful from the perspective of International Organisations.
The article, published in International Political Sociology, sheds light on the politics of evidence-based policy in global governance. International organizations (IOs) produce documents that aim at guiding political action in domains as diverse as education, development, and health, to name a few. Such guidelines are based on scientific evidence, which IOs refer to as “the best available evidence’. Our article examines which forms of evidence are considered to be 'best', unpacking the way evidence is valuated and synthesized in the making of guidelines and recommendations.
To shed light on such processes, the article proposes to use the concept of 'methods regimes', to depict those socio-material ensembles of procedures, expert networks, and material infrastructures, which govern the production and validation of knowledge by establishing a clear hierarchy between alternative forms of research designs.
The authors shed light that through a mode of operation that relies on a discourse of procedurality, a dispersed but powerful network of methodologists, and a dense web of infrastructures, methods regimes constitute and police the making of “policy-relevant knowledge” in global governance. Through an examination of the case of “GRADE” (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation), a standardized system that evaluates and grades the quality of evidence in global health, they show that GRADE has acted as a methods regime, which has worked to the effect of empowering a new cast of methodologists, seen as more objective and portable across domains, sidelining certain forms of evidence that do not conform with its own methodological criteria of scientificity, and “clinicalizing” research in medicine and beyond. The “procedural” aura of GRADE makes this displacement in epistemic authority, as well as these knowledge effects, appear natural, thus hiding the political implications of methods regimes in the governing of global problems.
The politics of methods are, however, at the heart of the processes through which certain forms of evidence come to be seen as valid, scientific, and relevant, while others are dismissed.
By designating which methods of knowledge production are “right,” they directly regulate and control the kind of evidence that is deemed to be accurate and relevant for the governance of global problems. As such, they are at the core of the politics of “evidence-based” policy-making.
The findings are relevant beyond global health and speak to other governance domains where methods experts such as consultants, risk assessors, auditors, and assurance officers, also participate in the production of knowledge.
This research is part of a wider project entitled "De-blackboxing the Production of Expert Knowledge in Global Governance". The project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation will explore how expertise is produced and stabilized in global governance, with a specific focus on global health.
The announcement of the winning paper is available on the SNIS website.