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Methods Regimes in Global Governance

Annabelle Littoz Monnet, Juanita Uribe


This article delves into the behind-the-scenes processes of how evidence is chosen and evaluated to formulate guidelines and recommendations in global governance.


It does so by putting forward the concept of “methods regimes”, defined as the 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 or ‘methods’.

As methods regimes act in a way that is seen as just procedural and mechanical, their role in the making of “policy-relevant evidence” and, ultimately, global recommendations, guidelines, or best practices has gone largely unnoticed. 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.

The article examines the case of “GRADE” (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation), a standardized system used to assess and grade the quality of evidence in global health.

The authors shed light that through a mode of operation that relies on a discourse of procedurality, a powerful network of methodologists, who ‘check’ the scientific evidence is properly ‘valued’ within international organizations, and a dense web of infrastructures, GRADE constitutes and polices the making of “policy-relevant knowledge” in global health governance.

It has, for instance, been sidelining certain forms of evidence, such as observational studies or case reports, because they do not align with its specific methodological criteria of scientific rigor. It has also sustained a displacement of epistemic authority away from doctors with experience in their area of specialization, toward an emerging transnational cast of methodologists, seen as more objective and capable of working across domains.

Overall, the article raises questions about the exclusionary effects that a certain methodological dominance has on the visibility of different types of knowledge, which, as a consequence, leads to a dearth of strategies needed to tackle humanity’s complex and multifactored crises. In unpacking, and making more explicit, the politics at play in the inclusion or exclusion of certain forms of knowledge in global governance, we aim to open up possibilities for methodological pluralism and more diverse forms of expertise in global governance.

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