The Madness of Metrics and Possibilities of Pause in Open Research




In July 2022, Marisa de Andrade wrote (what she thought was) an important book about knowledge (in)justice in the academy and in the world. Public Health, Humanities and Magical Realism: A Creative-Relational Approach to Researching Human Experience published by Routledge, was born partly out of frustration after years of questioning ‘the system’ of public health evaluation and measurement through her programme of research Measuring Humanity, which questions the very nature of evidence (and reality).  

In May 2023, this book was awarded Joint Winner for the International Congress of Qualitative InquiryBook Award noting it was “paradigm-shifting text that espouses important messages about relationality, research practice, and well-being”.At its core, it argues that so-called ‘traditional’ methodologies and conceptualisations of metrics, data and knowledge have the potential to exacerbate (health) inequalities by excluding and misrepresenting minorities.  

It unpacks the way we think about, do and promote research about inequalities and puts different ways of knowing (epistemology) and different ways of being (ontology) under the microscope to show how to design studies, make recommendations and adapt services that are aligned with views and experiences of those living on the margins and beyond. As such, it has been dubbed an essential read for public health researchers and students. 

There’s only one catch. The hard cover book costs £135. And the people it was essentially written with and for, can’t afford to buy it and apply it.  

Whose knowledge matters? How can metrics be used to explore how and who is benefiting from research? What can open research teach us about equity, impact and activism? And where does pause—and the meaning of pause—fit into all of it when we’re told high numbers (usually linked to high access fees) will get you promoted?