Global public policy in a quantified world: Sustainable Development Goals as epistemic infrastructures

Marlee Tichenor*, Sally E. Merry, Sotiria Grek, Justyna Bandola-Gill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Despite the multiplicity of actors, crises, and fields of action, global public policy has known one constant, that is, the ubiquity of indicators in the production of governing knowledge. This article theoretically engages with the phenomenon of hyper-quantification of global governance in the context of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), debated and introduced in 2015. Increasingly metrics - such as indicators and quantified data to monitor targets and goals - are no longer just tools of governance but rather are emblematic of the new types of political cultures, enabling an interplay of material, techno-political, and organizational structures within which (statistical) knowledge is produced, disseminated, and translated into global public policy. The paper unpacks this complexity by proposing a new theoretical approach to quantification as an "epistemic infrastructure,"which emerges across three levels: materialities (such as data and indicators), interlinkages (such as networks and communities), and paradigms (such as new ways of doing policy work). Using the lens of the "epistemic infrastructure"on the SDGs, this article and the others in this special issue analyze the ways that quantified knowledge practices - in widely varying policy arenas, scales, and geographic regions - are at the heart of the production of its global public policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-444
Number of pages14
JournalPolicy and Society
Issue number4
Early online date27 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • epistemic infrastructures
  • global public policy
  • quantification
  • SDGs


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