Over the course of four years, the InsSciDE project develops a library of case studies on its five targeted thematic areas (Heritage, Health, Security, Environment and Space) as well as on its transversal research strand Science Diplomats. The case studies draw on extensive field and desk research and on interviews and archives, and are carried out in direct contact with practitioners.
In April 2022, a new case was added to the collection: Unpacking the Role of Metrics in Global Vaccination Governance by Anna Pichelstorfer and Katharina T. Paul from the University of Vienna.
The case study is published as an open access paper — read it here!
Recent efforts by intergovernmental actors, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), to foster collaboration on vaccine-preventable diseases stand in stark contrast to the contextually contingent nature of national immunization programs: vaccination schedules and delivery differ greatly, and so do the ways in which these programs are assessed by means of coverage rates—a key metric in global health governance. These divergences, we show, are sidelined and resolved diplomatically in WHO assessment practices: here, seemingly standardized metrics and practices of datafication function to translate political differences into technical discussions about “data quality.” Using a practice-based approach, we conceptualize data practices as a form of health diplomacy and their infrastructures as constitutive of global health governance. Drawing on document analysis and interviews, we examine the WHO’s practices of producing coverage rates provided by member states. We argue that these metrics are performative inasmuch as they help frame vaccination as a global concern and mediate between global norms and local practices. We show how datafication is both an effect of, and a means for, health diplomacy and helps sustain the authority of the WHO. Our research further demonstrates the need to attend to practices of datafication and their political implications.
More case studies are available by both InsSciDE and S4D4C (two of the three founding projects of the Alliance) serving to illustrate science diplomacy in practice across a range of scientific fields and diplomatic practices.