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Politics and International Relations (PIR): Research


Politics of Monitoring

Welcome to the ESRC project The Politics of Monitoring: Information, Indicators and Targets in Climate Change, Defence and Immigration Policy.

The Politics of Monitoring project explores the determinants and effects of different monitoring practices across three policy areas: climage change, defence procurment and immigration policy. We are particularly interested in how targets and performance indicators have been deployed to measure policy performance over the past two decades. What explains the appeal of performance-based measurement? What effects have such tools had on policymaking and political debate across the three sectors we examine? You can read more about the project here.

The project was lauched in April 2013, and will be completed in June 2016. These web pages will provide news about our research, events and publications. Please also check out our Politics of Monitoring blog.

Thanks for your interest in the project!


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), Hilary CornishColin Fleming, Eugenia Rodrigues, Graham Spinardi and Steve Yearley.


Christina Boswell (Principal Investigator)

Colin Fleming (Research Fellow)

Eugenia Rodrigues (Co-Investigator)

Eirini Souri (Project Administrator)

Graham Spinardi (Co-Investigator)

Steve Yearley (Co-Investigator)


17 September 2015: Round-table on targets in asylum and immigration policy, hosted by the Institute for Public Policy Research, London.

16 October 2015: Round-table on targets on carbon emissions, hosted by the Institute for Public Policy Research, London.

28 November 2015: Public event on the net migration target, University of Edinburgh.

13 May 2016: Round-table on targets on defence procurement, hosted by the Royal United Services Institute, London.


Boswell, C. and E. Rodrigues, “Policies, Politics and Organizational Problems: Multiple Streams and the Implementation of Targets in UK Government'. Policy and Politics (2015, available early online).

Boswell, C., “The Double Life of Targets in Public Administration: Disciplining and Signaling in UK Asylum Policy”Public Administration (2014).

Boswell, C., S. Yearley, C. Fleming, E. Rodrigues and G. Spinardi, ‘The Effects of Targets and Indicators on Policy Formulation: Narrowing Down, Crowding Out and Locking In’. in The Tools of Policy Formulation: Actors, Capacities, Venues and Effects. Jordan, A. J. & Turnpenny, J. R. (eds.). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing (2015), pp. 225-244.

PoM graph